Allison Loudermilk

Top 5 Surprisingly Recyclable Items - No. 3: Your Meds

You're moving. You open up your medicine chest and an army of squat brown bottles with old prescription medications challenges you from the shelves. Deal with me in an efficient manner, they taunt. What do you do with them? You're not supposed to hang on to them past their expiration date. If you flush them down the toilet, will you be helping to create some superbug that flourishes in the sewage underworld and rises up to kill us all faster than you can say swine flu? Or maybe methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus?

Relax. You have another option: recycle them. In the United States 37 states have passed drug reclamation, or recycling laws and started related programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislature. The organization's Web site lists the states that have enacted this type of legislation, as well as who will accept what. According to the site, almost all of the programs have the following requirements:

  • All donated drugs must not be expired and must have a verified future expiration date.
  • Controlled substances, defined by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) usually are excluded and prohibited.
  • A state-licensed pharmacist or pharmacy has to be part of the verification and distribution process.
  • Each patient receiving a drug must have a valid prescription form in his or her own name.

U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy


It seems like we still have some work to do on medicine recycling. Anyone have any better ideas (LEGAL suggestions, mind you)?

See the rest of this week's surprisingly recyclable series here:No. 5: Your Toothbrush No. 4: Your Mattress No. 2: Your Mac No. 1: Your Stilettos