Frequently Asked Questions
- How does medication get into our water?
- When medication is not disposed of properly, it can end up in our
lakes, rivers, streams, and ground water. Pharmaceuticals are often
discarded by throwing them down a drain, toilet, or carelessly into
the trash. Medication gets thrown away for several reasons, including
a change in prescription, improvement in patient’s health, failure
to complete a prescribed course of medication, or an excess amount
- What is wrong with flushing meds down the toilet?
- When medication and personal care products are flushed down the
toilet or thrown down the drain, they can end up in our water sources.
The long term effects of these pharmaceuticals and personal care products
(PPCP) are currently not fully understood. We do know however, that
having pharmaceuticals in the water supply can affect the local environment,
including aquatic life.
- How do PPCP in the water affect me? The environment?
- Medication that is not disposed of properly can harm humans and
wildlife, especially fish and amphibians. Medication that is thrown
in the trash may be easy for kids to get into. Thousands of children
every year are treated for unintentional ingestion of pharmaceuticals.
Pharmaceuticals in the water have been shown to adversely affect wildlife.
Trace amounts have been found in some samples of finished drinking
water, but the Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. EPA
do not believe it to endanger public health.
- Is it ok for me to throw meds in the trash?
- Medication that is carelessly thrown in the trash is an easy target
for kids. It is also a target for other household members, pets, and
even burglars. Aside from these risks, medication that is thrown in
a trash bag will eventually end up sitting in a landfill, where it
may leach indirectly into the water.
- Where can I go to drop off meds?
- For a list of known disposal sites in Illinois, see our Disposal
- What if there is not a disposal site in my area?
- There may not be a designated site near you, but many towns hold
a yearly event just for this purpose. Check with your local area to
see if there is an annual drug disposal event. If disposal sites or
collection events are not available, there are other ways to dispose
of medication. The American Pharmacists Association recommends the
following: crush and/or dissolve the medication as best as possible
and then mix it with an unappetizing substance such as kitty litter
or coffee grounds. Place this mixture in a discreet sealed bag or container
(double bagging is recommended to prevent leaching) (Illinois Indiana
Another helpful hint from the Illinois EPA is to make sure you only
buy what is needed from the pharmacy. For example, many pharmacies
encourage buying a three-month supply, as compared to a one month supply.
However, a three-month supply is not always needed. Make sure to take
all the medication that was prescribed for you; it is better for you
and the environment. Never put meds down the toilet or sink!
- What is accepted at these disposal sites?
- As of right now, the disposal sites collect non controlled, non
hazardous medications. This includes prescribed or over-the-counter
vitamins/supplements, homeopathic remedies, creams, oils, ointments,
and suppositories (P2D2). Contact your local disposal site for a complete
- What is not accepted?
- Sharps will only be accepted if there is a separate bin (provided
by the site) that is designated for them. Controlled and/or illegal
drugs may be accepted, depending on the site’s specific DEA regulations.
Check with your local site disposal program beforehand.
- Is it discreet?
- Yes. Medications may be brought in unmarked, unidentifiable bags,
- Can I just bring meds back to any pharmacy?
- No. Not every pharmacy has a take-back program.
- How should I transport the meds?
- Feel free to transport your old medication using any empty bag,
jar, container, or bottle. All drugs will end up together in a bin,
so it does not matter how they get there. Just be sure to remove all
- My health, age and/or disability make it difficult for me to get
around. Is there a home pickup service?
- As of right now, no.
- What happens to the meds after I drop them off?
- The medication will be sorted, and then placed in a bin. The bins
will be picked up and delivered to a plant, where they will be incinerated.
- Is the disposal method environmentally safe?
- Incineration is environmentally safer than other disposal methods.
The process is highly regulated by the EPA. It is done in a way that
minimizes contamination of air particles (P2D2).
- Who else can I contact for information, locally or online?
- Start with contacting your local law officials, pharmacy, and doctors.
For general information regarding take-back programs, contact Dave
Walters (IEPA). For information regarding pharmaceutical effects on
our rivers and streams, contact Cecily Smith (Prairie Rivers Network)
at (217) 344-2371. For general information, visit the Illinois
Indiana Sea Grant website.
For questions regarding starting a take-back program in your area,
contact Paul Ritter or Eric
Bohm of Pontiac Township High School (P2D2)
at (815) 844-6113.
For information regarding pharmaceutical and personal care products in
drinking water, contact Bill Soucie (Illinois
- I am interested in starting a disposal program in my area. How should
- You will need to work with your community leaders to ensure that
the program is run safely and adheres to the law. You should begin
by contacting the local law enforcement and pharmacies. Make sure they
are on board with the idea. You will also need to arrange for proper
transport and incineration of the meds. For more ideas and specific
regulations, contact the Illinois EPA and the P2D2 program. Illinois
Indiana Sea Grant has helpful tips for starting a take-back program
and a list of potential partners on their website (tips include funding,
publicity, convenience, safety, record-keeping, participant privacy,
supervision, hazardous waste regulations, and disposal methods).
- Can I get someone to come give a presentation in my area?
- There may be an expert speaker available in your area. Experts who
are willing to give presentations can be contacted through the Illinois
EPA's Medication Disposal program.