UCSF Sustainability Stories
Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, April 2014
Safe Medicine Disposal: Don’t Flush Them!
According the the Columbia University Earth Institute, many people do not realize that the unused pills dumped into toilets, and medications excreted through our urine, can end up in our water supply. While wastewater treatment facilities are very effective at removing solids and harmful bacteria, they are not designed to filter pharmaceutical chemicals. It is important to remember, take pharmaceuticals only when necessary and treat unused medicine as a threat to the environment.
Medicines that are flushed down the drain or that leach from landfills eventually end up in our waterways. According to the San Francisco Department of Environment, even the tiniest amounts of medicine can harm aquatic life—for example, antidepressants have been shown to disrupt fish reproductive cycles.
Don’t keep unused medicines lying around, but also remember not to flush medicines or put them in the trash. Instead, safely and securely dispose of medicine at a drop-off site near you. Thirteen volunteer pharmacies and all ten San Francisco police stations have partnered with SF Environment and the SF Public Utilities Commission to offer an easy way for San Francisco residents to responsibly dispose of medicine.
If you live outside of San Francisco, check out this resource from Save the Bay, which lists the location of pharmaceutical disposal sites throughout the Bay Area.
2. Prepare for your visit:
Mix pills in a ziplock bag or in as few containers as possible.
Tighten the lids of liquid medicines or place the entire bottle in a ziplock bag.
Check this short list or this complete list to see if your medicines are controlled substances. Controlled substances are only accepted at police stations.
When you visit one of the pharmacy sites, simply deposit your medicine in the green drop-box. If you visit a police station, take your medicine directly to the window. At police stations, you may be asked for your name and address. If you are uncomfortable giving this information, simply tell the officer that you “decline to state.” Please remember to treat our pharmacy, community center and police station volunteers with respect.
Non-controlled prescription medicines
Medicated ointments and lotions
Police Stations accept:
Controlled substances (ex: Vicodin, OxyContin, Ritalin, Adderall or Valium)
Any prescription medicines
Medicated ointments and lotions
Pharmacies and Police Stations DO NOT accept:
* Toothpaste, shampoo, sunscreen, peroxide, or other non-medicated personal care products (Use up or place in black cart)
* Thermometers (Take to Household Hazardous Waste Facility or request Home Pickup)
* Aerosol cans (Take to Household Hazardous Waste Facility or request Home Pickup)
* Empty or used needles and syringes (Take to any Walgreens Pharmacy and ask to use the Free Sharps Disposal Program)
To request posters and flyers for your pharmacy call: SF Environment (415) 355-3700
For general questions about the program call:
SF Environment (415) 355-3700
SF Public Utilities Commission (415) 695-7378