Frequently Asked Questions

Can I participate in this program?

This program is designed for residents of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties in California. For drop-off locations out of our service areas visit www.Earth911.org

How much does it cost?

Nothing. There is no charge to participants returning medicine or to the locations accepting medications. Funding for this program has been provided by The City of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County Water Agency and Russian River Watershed Association. For more information regarding the funding source please contact us with your questions

What are “unwanted” medications?

These are medicines either purchased by you or your family and no longer required, or prescribed by a doctor for a previous condition no longer present. “Out of date” medicines should also be returned for disposal. (Consumers should always check the Expiration Date on medicines). It is dangerous to assume that previously used medicines are suitable for new ailments. You should always consult a pharmacist or doctor before taking medicines prescribed for another condition. It is preferable to discard (return) medicines no longer of immediate use. “Out of date” medicines are potentially dangerous. Chemical changes to some medicines after their use-by date can result in toxic products. Out of date medicines should be returned for disposal.

Why should “returned” medicines not be used for overseas aid?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has strongly recommended that the recycling of returned medicines be ceased, for the following reasons:
  1. The “integrity” of previously distributed medicines cannot be assured. Strict controls are in place to regulate the manufacture and storage of medicines in the manufacturer, wholesaler and pharmacy environments. Frequent reports of adulterated medicines have reached the media. We should not apply double standards – if we are not to use the medicines, neither should another country.
  2. The recipient country often has no knowledge of medicines available in the “sending” country.  Brand names differ, and most often the medicines sent are of no use in the circumstances existing in the receiving country.
  3. Black Market operations in third world countries are often very active. The interception of drug deliveries is common.

When I take my medicines to the pharmacy for disposal is the process discreet and anonymous?

Yes. We recommend that all pills are put together in a zip lock bag. Liquids and creams must remain in sealed containers but personal information should be marked out. All drugs will end up together in a bin, so it does not matter how they get there.

Where can I dispose of my sharps?

Sharps can be disposed of at Dollar Drug (customers only please) located at 1055 West College Avenue in Santa Rosa or at the Household Toxics Facility located at 500 Mecham Rd., in Petaluma. Syringes and needles are required to be in sealed sharps containers.  Sharps disposal is for residents only (no businesses).

Can I just bring medicine back to any pharmacy?

No. Not every pharmacy has a take-back program. Check the list of participating drop-off locations in our program or www.Earth911.org for drop-off locations out of our service areas.

What happens to the medicine after I drop them off?

The medication is placed in a secure bin. The bins will be picked up by a certified medical waste hauler who transports them out of state for disposal by incineration.

Is the disposal method environmentally safe?

Incineration is environmentally safer than other disposal methods. The process is highly regulated by the EPA. It is done in a way that minimizes contamination of air particles (P2D2).

Is it okay for me to throw medicine in the trash?

Medication that is carelessly thrown in the trash is an easy target for kids. It is also a target for other household members, pets, and even burglars. Aside from these risks, medication that is thrown in a trash bag will eventually end up sitting in a landfill, where it may leach indirectly into the water.

Where do I dispose of my controlled substances?

At this point we do not have a program in place for the disposal of controlled substances.  Do not flush these medicines down the toilet. The FDA recommends that most medicines be disposed of in the household trash after mixing them with some unpalatable substance (e.g., coffee grounds) and sealing them in a container.  Unused portions of medicines must be disposed of properly to avoid harm.  For more information, check out the FDA website on proper disposal of unused medicine.

I am a pharmacist. How can my pharmacy participate in the program?

Please contact us and provide us with your name, the name of your pharmacy, and your contact information. A program staff member will call to talk with you about the program.