Don’t Flush Those Pills!


People may not realize how many pharmaceuticals (prescription or non-prescription) they have in their homes.

Over time, a typical household can accumulate a significant number of medications that are unused or out-of-date. Many probably think they only have one or two, assuming that a household would only have multiple drugs if someone was being treated for a chronic medical condition or was a hospice patient.

Granted, the care of a hospice patient may generate anywhere from five to twenty partially used prescriptions. However, even households composed of “healthy” people not under active medical treatment can accumulate several medications over the course of time due to colds, allergies, etc. In checking our medicine cabinet, I counted four prescription drugs and seventeen over-the-counter drugs.

If there are household pets, there also may be leftover or expired prescriptions related to their treatment.

Expired or unused medications are household hazardous waste

From time to time, necessity steps in requiring the cleaning of the household medicine cabinet. The usual exercise is to toss out-of-date pills or unused medicines in the wastebasket.  Some even go the extra step of flushing the pills down the toilet. Both practices are environmentally undesirable given the fact that the pills or medicines (prescription & non-prescription) go directly into the water table…and eventually come back to us.

Modern sewage treatment plants like the one in Petaluma are not capable of handling the myriad of potential household pharmaceuticals. Disposing of them in the trash only delays the infiltration of the pharmaceuticals into the water table. 

So what do you do?

Is there a convenient, environmentally safe way to dispose of pills and medications?

Thanks to the efforts of the staff at Hospice of Petaluma and the Medicine Shoppe in Petaluma, there will soon be a simple and environmentally safe way to dispose of household pharmaceutical waste…


Jamil Harb of the Medicine Shoppe in Petaluma has signed a contract with Integrated Waste Control, a company that specializes in the disposal of biowaste. Beginning July 6, you can take your household generated pharmaceutical waste to the Medicine Shoppe at 300 Washington Street in Petaluma.

There is no charge for this service.

They will accept any prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs regardless of where purchased. 


1. Pills or TabletsDo not bring the bottles or containers. Instead, place the contents of the bottle or bottles in a zip lock bag and take the bag to the Medicine Shoppe. Remove or obliterate the labels and dispose of the empty bottles in your recycle container  

2. Liquid Medications–The Medicine Shoppe will accept liquids or creams in their original containers but you must remove or obliterate the labels first.

3. Hypodermic Needles–Effective September 1, 2008, California prohibited the disposal of needles and syringes in household trash or recycle containers.  Effective July 6, 2009, you can take them (in a medical sharps container) to the Medicine Shoppe.

In Closing

The Medicine Shoppe is bearing the full cost of the disposal program. Jamil’s main objective is to do something to keep pharmaceuticals out of the water table. It is a major community service on his part.

His effort brings to mind a Mexican proverb recently brought to my attention: “Haz bien, y no mires a quien.” (“Do good and don’t look for acknowledgement or approval.”) Put another way, he has taken on the task of doing the right thing for the right reason.

If you have any questions, feel free to call Jamil at the Medicine Shoppe–707-778-6363.

For additional information on the subject of household medical waste, Click Here, Here, and Here.