How should medicines be disposed of?

How should medicines be disposed of?

Pharmaceutical waste is produced in both households and health care. All expired or unused medicines are pharmaceutical waste. 

Pharmaceutical waste is always hazardous waste that can cause particular danger or harm to human health or the environment, and it must be properly disposed of. Pharmaceutical waste must never be placed in mixed waste or flushed down the drain. Always take pharmaceutical waste to a pharmacy from where it is sent to a hazardous waste treatment plant. Households can take pharmaceutical waste to a pharmacy free-of-charge. 

Checking the medicine cabinet

  • Check your medicine cabinet regularly and remove any expired or unnecessary medicines. 

Preparing pharmaceutical waste before taking it to a pharmacy

  • For privacy reasons, remove patient information labels from the medicine packages.
  • Remove old and unused tablets and capsules from their original cardboard packaging.  Tablets and capsules in blister packs do not need to be removed from their packaging. Pack the tablets and capsules loosely in a bag and take them to a pharmacy. Dispose of the cardboard packaging according to general waste sorting guidelines. 
  • Take liquid medicines, creams and aerosols to a pharmacy in their packages. Ensure that liquid drugs do not leak.
  • Fold the adhesive surfaces of transdermal patches to make the used patches unusable. Put the patch back in the original protective bag or in a transparent plastic bag for disposal. A used transdermal patch still contains the medicinal substance, which is why the patch must be taken to a pharmacy for disposal. Nicotine patches are also pharmaceutical waste that must be taken to a pharmacy. 
  • Pack syringes and needles in a sealed container, e.g. a plastic bottle or glass jar, and take them to the pharmacy separated from other pharmaceutical waste.
  • Take pharmaceutical waste containing cytostatic agents (cancer therapy medicinal products and e.g. preparations containing methotrexate) to a pharmacy in a separate plastic bag and in their original packaging.
  • Deliver medicines containing iodine and mercury thermometers to a pharmacy separated from other pharmaceutical waste.

What is not pharmaceutical waste?

  • Moisturisers, nutritional supplements and natural products are not pharmaceutical waste and can therefore be disposed of in mixed household waste. If you are unsure of the correct disposal of a product, you can consult a pharmacy.