Key to success: Simple, safe, convenient

Take-back bins help community avoid hazards of unused drugs

“It should be as easy to return unused pharmaceuticals as it is to buy new ones,” says John Davis, administrator for the Mojave Desert and Mountain Recycling Authority.

He notes that there are hazards associated with less responsible disposal methods.

“If you flush medications, it goes into wastewater treatment plants and eventually ends up in groundwater,” he says. “Just throwing them into the trash can allow people to rummage through and pull them out for abuse.”

“It should be as easy to return unused pharmaceuticals as it is to buy new ones.”

John Davis, Administrator, Mojave Desert and Mountain Recycling Authority

Here are his answers to frequently asked questions about take-back bins:

How do medication take-back bins benefit the communities they’re in?

Take-back bins provide convenient and secure disposal options for unused or expired medications. In the past, users were encouraged to flush medications down the drain or throw them away in the trash, both of which can contribute to pollution. Stockpiling medications in the home can also contribute to intentional misuse or accidental poisonings.

What can be disposed of in the bins?

Bins accept prescription and over-the-counter medications, medical patches, as well as pet medications and medicated ointments and lotions tightly sealed in their original containers. Disposal requirements are posted at each bin location.

What materials cannot be disposed of in the bins?

Community residents are advised not to put illegal controlled substances in the bins, such as marijuana, heroin, or LSD for example. For safety reasons, medical sharps and needles, compressed cylinders such as asthma inhalers, chemotherapy or radiopharmaceuticals, and medical devices such as thermometers should also not be disposed of in bins. Sites will not be held responsible for materials deposited into bins.

What locations are suitable to host a take-back bin?

Pharmacies, hospitals with pharmacies, and law enforcement locations are suitable locations as they can provide proper management and security for materials.

What are sites responsible for handling?

Sites are responsible for maintaining bins and ensuring they are securely located inside. Once full, sites are responsible for scheduling material pick-ups and educating customers on what materials they can responsibly dispose of. Once the bin is full, site staff is responsible for removing and sealing the package and liner for pick up.

Host sites may also be responsible for a monthly service fee for the collection and proper disposal of materials. Although costs may vary depending on a number of factors, the estimated service fee is $165 a month.

Is there any assistance available for host sites?

Sites can contact Drug Takeback Solutions Foundation ( and MED-Project (

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

Written by Anne Stokes