Keeping North Coast Communities Safe and Clean

Drug take-back bins provide easy disposal options

by Anne Stokes

Along with the power to heal, medications also have the potential to cause harm when misused or improperly discarded. Drug take-back bins provide safe and convenient ways to keep unused medications out of the environment and out of the hands of those who would misuse them.

“We really like to have collection programs that are as close as possible to the place of purchase,” says Tedd Ward, director of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority. “It should be as easy to properly manage disposal as it is to purchase. There really has to be a place for those prescription medications to go.”

“It should be as easy to properly manage disposal as it is to purchase. … There really has to be a place for those prescription medications to go.”

Tedd Ward, Director, Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority

Don’t rush to flush

Even in the recent past, people were advised to flush unused medications down the drain. Unfortunately, what gets flushed down the toilet can pollute the same watersheds that often supply communities’ drinking water.

“Flushing medicines down the toilet can cause problems in wastewater treatment plants because no wastewater treatment plant is suited to remove these medicines,” Ward says. “They turn into liquids and these liquids go out to rivers and the ocean. That’s an issue because these things are biologically active.”

Not getting rid of unused medications has its risks

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 45 Americans died every day from prescription opioid overdoses in 2021, for a total of 280,000 deaths. And this was nearly five times the number of deaths in 1999. Similarly, two-thirds of teens who admit to abusing painkillers say they got them out of home medicine cabinets. And each year, approximately 59,000 children in the U.S. end up in emergency departments because of accidental poisoning.

A better option

Ward says that one of the biggest obstacles to using medication take-back bins is simply the public’s lack of awareness that such a resource exists.

“Many people aren’t aware that medications should be disposed of separately from the trash or not flushed down the toilet. Breaking bad habits is the first step,” he says. “I really appreciate the work of the California Product Stewardship Council in helping deploy and promote the use of these bins.nThey do really important work of identifying hazardous or problematic elements in the waste stream and working with the producer of those products to develop programs so they’re managed more responsibly at the end of their life.”

For more info about medication take-back bins, visit
To learn about California Product Stewardship Council’s many programs, visit