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Inspiring People to Care for the Earth

Disposal of Medicine - Prescripion & Over the Counter Print E-mail

How Do I Dispose of Old or Unwanted Medicine?

Medicine Found In Lake WaterThe advice used to be that old medicine should be flushed down the toilet. Now, scientists find that these medicines are polluting our waterways, including those we use for drinking water. The Pharma-Fish graphic from April 2010 National Geographic (right) shows the proportions of various medicines found in the North Branch of the Chicago River, downstream from the wastewater treatment plant. So, to protect water quality, it is better to take medicines to a local police station that has a RxBox for disposal.

What Happens to the Medicine?

It is incinerated. This process completely destroys the active ingredients in the medicine. Although this is not an ideal situation (for air quality), it is better than flushing it down the toilet - where the medicine gets into the waterways, and better than the garbage, where the medicine may drain into the soil and the groundwater.

Disposal Details

Medicine that is no longer needed can be disposed of at certain police stations (see list below) and the Naperville Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility.

Just empty all the pills into a ziplock bag. The bottles or container that it came in can be disposed of separately (look for the recycling triangle). The police stations have very limited space to collect the old medicine and do not want your personal information from the prescription bottle

Police Stations

Burr Ridge
Carol Stream
Clarendon Hills
Downers Grove (appointment needed online or by phone 630-434-5681)
DuPage County Sheriff
Elk Grove Village
Glen Ellyn
Glendale Heights
West Chicago
Wood Dale
Other Sites:
Barlett Village Hall (last Saturday of each month 9am-noon)
Naperville HHW site - weekends only.  9am-2pm, excluding holidays

Accepted Items

  • Prescription & Over-the-Counter Medications
  • Medicated Ointments
  • Liquids Containing Medications
  • Prescription
  • & Over-the-Counter Inhalers
  • Glass Thermometers Containing Mercury
  • Only residentially-generated medication items

Items Not Accepted

  • Sharps/Needles
  • Bio-Hazardous materials including wound dressings
  • Radioactive Medicines
  • Other Household Wastes

This list of DuPage County police stations changes frequently. Be sure to check with your local station to find out if they have a collection started.