Safe Medicine Disposal

Unused medicine is a threat to both public health and the environment. Did you know that since 2003 more drug overdoses occur annually from prescription medicines than cocaine and heroin combined? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States." Accidental poisonings from medicines in the home are also a concern for young children, seniors and pets.

In addition, while wastewater treatment facilities are very effective at removing solids and harmful bacteria, they are not designed to filter pharmaceutical chemicals. Medicines that are flushed down the drain or that leach from landfills eventually end up in our waterways. According to the most recent report from the President's Cancer Panel, "Pharmaceuticals have become a significant water pollutant nationwide." Even the tiniest amounts of medicine can harm aquatic life-- for example, antidepressants have been shown to disrupt fish reproductive cycles.

Don't keep unused medicines lying around, but also remember not to flush medicines or put them in the trash. Instead, safely and securely dispose of medicine at a drop-off site near you. Thirteen volunteer pharmacies and all ten San Francisco police stations have partnered with SF Environment and the SF Public Utilities Commission to offer an easy way for San Francisco residents to responsibly dispose of medicine. This program is funded in part by grants from pharmaceutical manufacturers.

1. Use Recyclewhere or Google Maps to find a drop-off site near you

2. Prepare for your visit:

  • Mix pills in a ziplock bag or in as few containers as possible.
  • Tighten the lids of liquid medicines or place the entire bottle in a ziplock bag.
  • Check this short list or this complete list to see if your medicines are controlled substances. Controlled substances are only accepted at police stations.

When you visit one of the pharmacy sites, simply deposit your medicine in the green drop-box. If you visit a police station, take your medicine directly to the window.  At police stations, you may be asked for your name and address. If you are uncomfortable giving this information, simply tell the officer that you “decline to state.” Please remember to treat our pharmacy, community center and police station volunteers with respect.

Pharmacies accept:

  • Non-controlled prescription medicines
  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Vitamins
  • Inhaler cartridges
  • Pet medicines
  • Pre-loaded syringes
  • Medicated ointments and lotions

Police Stations accept:

  • Controlled substances (ex: Vicodin, OxyContin, Ritalin, Adderall or Valium)
  • Any prescription medicines
  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Vitamins
  • Inhaler cartridges
  • Pet medicines
  • Pre-loaded syringes
  • Medicated ointments and lotions

Pharmacies and Police Stations DO NOT accept:

To request posters and flyers for your pharmacy call:

SF Environment (415) 355-3700

For general questions about the program call:

SF Environment (415) 355-3700
SF Public Utilities Commission (415) 695-7378