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Using a Medicine Take Back

Answers to commonly asked questions about rug take-back.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if a medicine take-back program is not located near me?

Most communities in Washington do not have a drug take-back program, If you do not have a take back location please follow these instructions for disposal. For chemotherapy drugs, contact your prescribing medical office to see if they will accept the drugs for proper disposal. 
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Why isn’t there a medicine take-back near me?

Not all law enforcement agencies or pharmacies have the funding to provide a take-back program.

What’s wrong with throwing my medicines in the garbage or flushing them down the toilet?

About 30% of medicines are not used. Flushing waste medicines pollutes the environment.  Medicines are now found in our surface and ground water, as well as drinking water supplies.  Wastewater treatment facilities do not remove most medicines. Throwing medicines in the garbage - especially controlled substances like OxyContin and other pain relievers - is not safe because the drugs can be found and used by others. Medicines thrown in the trash can also get into the environment.  Learn more...
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How are the medicines collected by take-back programs destroyed?

The collected medicines are disposed by high temperature incineration at a secure permitted facility. This is the most environmentally sound disposal method which ensures the chemicals are completely destroyed.
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Why can’t businesses use these take-back programs?

Businesses -- like pharmacies, hospitals, doctors' offices and pharmaceutical companies -- are required to properly manage their drug waste under federal and state hazardous waste regulations.  These businesses send waste medicines for destruction at high temperature incineration facilities.  For more information about these requirements, visit the Washington State Department of Ecology’s web page on Managing Pharmaceutical Waste.
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Are medicines really hazardous waste?

When they become waste, most medicines are either hazardous waste or dangerous waste in Washington State. These chemicals can be toxic and persistent in our environment, which is why proper disposal is so important. More detail is available at the Department of Ecology’s Managing Pharmaceutical Waste page.
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What do I do with items that aren’t accepted by the take-back program?

Controlled Substances
Under current federal law, controlled substance drugs possessed by a patient can be returned to select pharmacies as well as law enforcement officials. Check Washington State take-back locations to find locations that accept all medicines, including controlled substances. If a drop off location is not available to you, see the Last Resort disposal page.   
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Needles and syringes
Used needles, injectors, EpiPens, lancets or other objects capable of puncturing skin may be infectious, capable of transmitting disease. These “biohazardous” or “biomedical” wastes have special regulations for safe transportation and disposal. For safe disposal of needles and syringes, ask your pharmacist or contact your local Health Department or call 1-800-RECYCLE (1-800-732-9253).
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Thermometers, Aerosol cans
For safe disposal of mercury thermometers or aerosol cans, contact your local household hazardous waste collection program or call 1-800-RECYCLE (1-800-732-9253).
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Hydrogen Peroxide
Household strength Hydrogen Peroxide can be poured down a drain or flushed down the toilet. Pour slowly & carefully to avoid damaging your eyes or ruining your clothes.
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Empty containers
Empty containers may be disposed into the regular garbage or possibly recycled. Check your local recycling rules to find out which plastic bottles can be recycled.

To protect your privacy, you can peel off the prescription label or use a permanent marker to cover your personal information.
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Bloody or infectious waste
For help disposing of bloody or infectious waste, contact your local Health Department or call 1-800-RECYCLE (1-800-732-9253).
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Personal care products
Most personal care products may be disposed into the regular garbage. If you have products in aerosol cans, hair color, hair spray, nail polish or nail polish remover, contact your local household hazardous waste collection program or call 1-800-RECYCLE (1-800-732-9253).
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For more information on why take back your meds, go to FAQs

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