Household Hazardous Waste


Collection of Unwanted Medicines


Photo:  Dartmouth Hitchcock Pharmacist, technicians and interns help with the July 2010 HHW and unwanted medicines collection at the Lebanon Landfill.

New Hampshire Collections

Our project goals in the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Region are to help inform the public regarding the need to dispose of their household hazardous waste including pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in a responsible manner and to offer alternatives for disposal which are convenient for consumers. Working toward these goals the UVLSRPC and host towns are sponsoring free Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection events, which will include PPCPs collection, for the residents of participating towns. Those not residing within participating towns may participate for a fee depending on the type and quantity of materials.

Medications accepted include prescription drugs (both controlled and non-controlled) and over-the-counter medications.  Veterinary medicines are also collected.

The host community's police departments will provide law enforcement officers to supervise the collection of controlled substances. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Outpatient Pharmacy is providing pharmacists to facilitate the identification of unwanted medicines brought in for disposal. See the HHW Collections Schedule to see if your municipality is participating.  2015 is the last year we will be collecting medicines at the HHW collections as there are now many police stations offering 24 hours 7 days a week collection.

 Please visit the Twin State Safe Meds web site to learn more about proper storage and disposal of medicines as well as a list of New Hampshire and Vermont police drop box sites.

National Collections

The U.S. Department of Drug Enforcement had offered occasional collections through towns and cities.  As of  July 2015, they are talking about starting the program again.  Check their the U.S. DEA web site to see if there is a collection coming soon and if your municipality is participating.  Is your town participating?  Check the web site or ask your police department.

Some pharmacies provide mail-back envelopes for purchase.  You can put your non-controlled drugs only in the envelope and mail it to a processing facility.  Don't know the difference between controlled (addictive, "street value") and non-controlled?  Ask your pharmacist.

No Collection Available?

If there is no collection in your area, the next best way to dispose of unwanted medicines is to throw them into your trash. Mix medicine with wet coffee grounds to render the medicine inert and throw it away. You can also use a sharpie pen to cover the medicine information on your medicine bottles.

It goes into our drinking water! If there are no collections, it is better to put unwanted medicine with your trash. See the NH DES web site for great information.

Dangers of Improper Disposal

As consumers of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs), we are well aware of the benefits they provide. We may not, however, be aware of the consequences of disposing the unused/unwanted portions of these products by flushing or pouring them down the drain. The current options for proper disposal of these, often hazardous, waste products are less than ideal.

Studies done by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and others have shown that the residues of PPCPs enter our waterways through surface runoff, treated wastewaters and septic system contaminated groundwater. Among those PPCPs testing positive in water samples taken downstream from wastewater treatment facilities are anti-depressants, anti-hypertensives, toxic fragrance compounds and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs are of particular concern because they affect the hormonal/reproductive functions of wildlife that is exposed to them.

See these great public service announcements from the Great Lakes region. 

Storing leftover prescriptions in the home is not an appropriate solution to this problem. American Journal of Preventive Medicine researchers found that unintentional poisoning by prescription medication (opoids, sedatives and tranquilizers) has surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of unintentional injury death, making it the second leading cause of unintentional death in the U.S.

Medical sharps or needles should not be brought to medicine collections.  Pharmacies should be working with their clients to help them with proper disposal in the home.  See this New Hampshire brochure for sharps disposal alternatives.  Do not put your sharps in the trash as they could harm waste management workers.