Residents of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties can drop off or mail back their unwanted medications free of charge at locations throughout the region. The Safe Medicine Disposal Program is a partnership between local agencies, pharmacies, and law enforcement offices to safely dispose of unwanted medications, prevent overdoses, and protect the environment.


Frequently Asked Questions


NO, it is unlawful to discard sharps in the trash. Sharps thrown in the trash creates significant risks to sanitation workers and the environment.

Can I participate in this program?

This program is designed for residents of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties in California. To find a participating location near you, View Drop-Off Locations or Mail-Back Envelope distributors. For drop-off locations outside of our service areas visit www.Earth911.org This program is not for use by businesses including medical offices, veterinary offices, schools or hospitals.  

How much does it cost?

Nothing! There is no charge to participants returning medicine or to the host locations accepting medications. To find a participating location near you, View Drop-Off Locations or Mail-Back Envelope distributors. 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 “Out of date” medicines should also be returned for disposal.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 “Out of date” medicines are potentially dangerous.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 Out of date medicines should be returned for disposal.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 to a drop-off location or use the mail-back envelopes for disposal is the process discreet and anonymous?

Yes. No matter which option you choose, the process is discreet and anonymous. As an extra precaution, we recommend that all personal information should be marked out on any containers you deposit into the drop-off bin or mail-back envelope.

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. To find a participating location near you, View Drop-Off Locations or Mail-Back Envelope distributors. For drop-off locations outside of our service areas visit www.Earth911.org

What happens to the medicine after I drop them off?

Medications placed in a secure bin, will be picked up by a certified waste hauler who transports them out of state for disposal by incineration. Mail-back envelopes are preaddressed and go directly to a Drug Enforcement Agency registered collectors where they are incinerated.

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?

Do not flush these medicines down the toilet or discard them in the trash!  You may safely and legally dispose of your Schedule II thru V controlled substances by using the mail-back envelopes or nearly any of the drop-off sites listed.  Call the drop-off location to ensure they accept controlled substances. You may not use the mail-back envelopes or drop-off site to dispose of Schedule I controlled substances such as LSD, heroin, and cannabis.

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.