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How should medicines be disposed of?

How should medicines be disposed of?

Pharmaceutical waste is generated both by households and health care organisations. All unused or expired drugs, or drugs whose use is prohibited by an authority, the manufacturer, marketing authorisation holder, or registration holder are considered to be pharmaceutical waste.

Pharmaceutical waste is always hazardous waste that can cause particular danger or harm to human health or the environment, and it must be properly disposed of. Check the contents of your medicine cabinet and dispose of pharmaceutical waste as instructed below.

Checking the medicine cabinet and disposing of pharmaceutical waste

  • Go through the contents of your medicine cabinet regularly and remove any expired or unused drugs.
  • Tear off the instruction labels from prescription medicines to maintain your privacy.
  • Remove expired or unused tablets and capsules from the carton, and place the blister, bottle or individual tablets or capsules in a transparent plastic bag and take them to a pharmacy.
  • Fold used transdermal patches in half with the sticky sides together and place them in the protective pouch if you still have it.
  • Return liquid medicines, creams and aerosols to a pharmacy in their original packaging. Make sure the liquid medicines do not leak.
  • Keep iodine-containing drugs and mercury thermometers separated from other pharmaceutical waste when delivering them to a pharmacy.
  • Return cytotoxic drugs (preparations used for treating cancer and preparations containing e.g. methotrexate) in their original package in a separate plastic bag.
  • Return syringes and needles separated from pharmaceutical waste; package them in a non-puncturable plastic bottle or glass jar.
  • Never put pharmaceutical waste in a mixed waste container, since that might allow children to reach it.
  • Do not flush pharmaceutical waste down the drain, because if the pharmaceutical substances end up in the environment, they can affect the microbes or flora and fauna of the soil and water.
  • Always return pharmaceutical waste to a pharmacy or a municipal disposal point, from where it will be delivered to a hazardous waste plant. The above instructions also apply when you return pharmaceutical waste to a municipal disposal point. Households can return pharmaceutical waste to a pharmacy free-of-charge.