Doing our part for a drug-free environment

What do you do with your unused or expired medications? If you are like 45% of Capital Region pills-fish-tallresidents you toss them in the garbage or down the drain. It turns out that's not such a good idea.

Why? Because medication that goes down the drain ends up in the ocean, where it can have a negative effect on the marine environment.

Medication in household garbage is not only easily accessible to children, pets and wildlife, but once it reaches the landfill, it can enter the leachate collection system and eventually wind up in the marine environment.

It's easy to safely dispose of your expired or unused medications.

Simply take your medications to one of the many pharmacies that is participating in the Medications Return Program (MRP).

About the Medications Return Program

The MRP collects expired or unwanted medication for proper and safe disposal, thereby giving the pharmaceutical industry a collective means of adhering to the requirements of the British Columbia Recycling Regulation. The MRP is administered by the Health Products Stewardship Association, which is funded by brand-owners selling pharmaceuticals in British Columbia.

In 2012 the Medications Return Program collected over 8816kg of unused or expired medications from CRD residents.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are medications in the sewage a concern?

Some medications are effectively removed or broken down by sewage treatment; other medications can pass through treatment and enter the environment unchanged. Although the potential impact of pharmaceuticals in the environment is unknown, the best way to minimize the possible effects is to dispose of unused or expired medications at a local MRP-participating pharmacy.

What’s wrong with throwing medication down the drain or in the garbage?

Medication that goes down the drain ends up in the ocean, where it can have a negative effect on the marine environment. Medication in household garbage is not only easily accessible to children, pets and wildlife, but once it reaches the landfill, it can enter the leachate collection system and eventually wind up in the marine environment.

Do I have to pay to dispose of medication at the pharmacy?

No. The collection, transportation and final disposal of waste medication is funded by the Health Products Stewardship Association (HPSA), formally Post-Consumer Pharmaceutical Stewardship Association.

What happens to the medication when I dispose of it at the pharmacy?

The waste is collected in a sealed blue MRP bucket, which, once full, is shipped to a licensed facility for incineration. At the facility, the content of the MRP bucket is incinerated at high temperatures so that the waste is neutralized.

Should I discard the medication packaging along with the medication?

We recommend emptying non-liquid medication into the blue MRP bucket, and then recycling the packaging (bottle or box) when possible. Some pharmacies will be able to recycle the packaging at their facility. Non-recyclable packaging should be placed in the garbage.

For liquid medication, please leave the medication in a container when depositing it into the blue MRP bucket.

Can I return needles and syringes to the pharmacy?

Some local pharmacies accept needles and syringes for disposal. Check first with your pharmacist to see if they accept needles and syringes. If they do not, you can contact the CRD Recycling Hotline (360.3030) to find the closest pharmacy that does accept them.

Can I dispose of my pet’s medication at the pharmacy?

No. Only medications for human use can be disposed of under the Medications Return Program. The MRP is not required under the British Columbia Recycling Regulation to accept veterinary medications and there are currently no programs for the collection and disposal of veterinary medications.

However, the same concerns exist with veterinary medications as with human medication, so the waste should not be disposed of down the drain or in the garbage. Speak with your local vet about proper disposal options

I use herbal medications and vitamins, can I dispose of them at the pharmacy?

Yes. Herbal medications and mineral and vitamin supplements are accepted under the Medications Return Program.

Can I dispose of medication at my doctor’s office or hospital?

No. Doctors’ offices and hospitals are not equipped to dispose of medications from the public.

Why is the CRD promoting the Medications Return Program (MRP)?

The MRP is a cost-effective, proactive way to minimize the presence of pharmaceuticals in the landfill and marine receiving environments. Past years have shown that when local governments have been involved, participation in the MRP has increased (e.g. BC saw an increase of 137% in medications being returned to pharmacies between 2011 and 2012).

What are the goals of the CRD’s Medication Returns Campaign?

  1. Reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals entering our marine receiving environment and the landfill.
  2. Increase awareness of, and participation in, the Medications Return Program.

Our Partners

The CRD Medications Return Campaign was developed in cooperation with local industry representatives and a number of committed organizations:

Are you a pharmacist?

Check the Frequently Asked Questions we've prepared for you.

See How it's Done!

These videos were produced by the CRD's Source Control program.