All Points Medical Waste Blog

Old Medicine Bottles: Are they hazardous?

Best practices for safe disposal of old medicine bottles

If you take prescription medicine or even over the counter medicines on a daily basis, like many people you likely have an abundance of empty pill bottles and other similar containers piling up. But is it ok to toss them in the trash or the recycling bin? Can they pose a health hazard once they’ve been emptied?

The answer: it depends. Take a look to learn more:

Determining the risks of improper disposal

Empty containers of over the counter medicines like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen or certain cold medicines that contain these ingredients can be disposed of in the regular trash or recycling bin—once empty they don’t pose a risk to the environment or to anyone who may handle the container.

But prescription medicines that have controlled substances, such as morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, diazepam, lorazepam, zolpidem can coat the inside of the bottle or container and often leave trace amounts—which could be dangerous. These containers need to be cleaned out with soap and warm water before disposal. It’s also important to remember to remove any labels or personally identifiable information from the bottles—including your name, address, phone number, etc. before recycling or throwing away, to prevent dumpster divers or identity thieves from confiscating your information.

Hazardous pharmaceutical waste

There are some medications that qualify as hazardous and as such can pose a risk to the environment and people if disposed of improperly. And although you may use all the medication, the container that it was stored in must be carefully and safely disposed of.

The RCRA Act (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) classifies drugs that are considered hazardous into three categories:

  • P listed drugs including nicotine and warfarin
  • U listed drugs including lindane and melphalan
  • Medications that contain heavy metals including thimerosal

If you have medications that fall into any of the above-listed categories, it’s best to bring them to a certified medical waste provider to be safely disposed of. This especially holds true if you end up not using all of the medication or you find that it is expired.

For all your medical waste needs, turn to us at All Points Medical Waste. It is our goal to ensure that all medical waste, from sharps and other items used to dispense medication to medication containers and more, is disposed of safely without risk to human health and the environment. Call us today at 77.600.4885 to find out more about what we do or to obtain a quote.

Dawn Connelly

Dawn is the vice president of All Points Medical Waste. All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated medical waste disposal and compliance company that has been serving the Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches, and surrounding areas since 1994.
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