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Disposing of medication

How you dispose of your medications can have a significant impact on the environment. In the past, many people have flushed prescription, over-the-counter and veterinary medications down their toilets. Someone probably told you this was a good way to keep the medication away from children and pets. This is not the best method of disposal for these products, however, placing outdated or unneeded medications in the garbage is the best way to get rid of them.

When throwing away medications, follow these steps:

  • Keep prescriptions in their original container since caps are often childproof and bottles may contain important safety information that could be used if a child or pet accidentally ingested the medication.
  • Alter the medication to discourage others from taking it. Add water to bottles of pills and tape the lid shut. Mix liquid medicines with some salt or flour before taping the top down. Wrap foil sheets of medication in a few layers of duct tape.
  • Hide the medication before placing in your garbage bag. Don't toss the container directly into the garbage; first, put it inside another container like an empty margarine tub, yogurt cup, etc.

Why flushing is a bad idea

When you flush medication down your drain, it ends up at Fargo's Wastewater Treatment Plant. While this plant is designed to remove many contaminants from untreated water, it may not filter out the ingredients found in many medications. These ingredients can remain in the treated water when it is released into the Red River and harm creatures living in the river, including fish and frogs. 

Disposal Locations

Residents can dispose of medications including liquids, pills and inhalers at the front desk of the Fargo Police Department. Items can be dropped off between the hours of 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

TakeAway is a program to help you find disposal locations for your unused prescription medications. TakeAway pharmacies are located in all of North Dakota's counties and at over 225 pharmacy sites. Find a site near you.

For more information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers information on the ways medications and personal care products may affect the environment.

The U.S. Geological Survey offers research on medications and household products in the environment.