How can Expired Medications be disposed of safely

Expired drug disposal guidelines

It is imperative to dispose of expired drugs safely, without harming people or the environment. In order to prevent other people or animals from taking them by mistake, they must be disposed of. For instance, there are various expired medications collection and treatment in facilities Abu Dhabi & al-Ain, for the safe and effective disposal of expired medicine to regulate safety norms.

Why is controlled medication treatment for proper disposal important?

As we all know, some drugs can be fatal to life and can prove to be very dangerous who are not meant to take them. Especially, children and pets are at major risk of coming into contact with improperly stored or disposed of drugs.

Next, any medication should be thrown away after its expiration date.

For example, types of medication which needed safe disposal are

  • Unused
  • Damaged or contaminated in any way
  • Unidentified
  • unwanted

Do you have expired medications or drugs in your medicine cabinet?

The best way to dispose of your expired bunch of unused medicines is through a drug take-back program. Another option includes that you may do it at home.

Safe Medication Disposal - cleanco

When disposing of medications, follow specific instructions to avoid contaminating the environment or putting yourself at risk.

Drug Take Back Programs:

Explore if it is practically possible of returning unusable drugs for safe disposal by the manufacturer. Particularly for those drugs which present disposal problems, such as anti-neo-plastics. Moreover, unwanted medicines which are unreasonably near their expiry date can be possibly returned to the donor for disposal.  Also check with the pharmacist to offer medicine drop-off boxes, mail-back programs, and other ways to help you safely dispose of your unused medicines.

Disposal of Medicines at Home:

When a drug take-back option does not work out, try to dispose of medicines at home. But first, you need to see the type of drug.

Flushing medicines- 

As you know that some medicines could be a threat to human or animal lives, as there are specific directions to immediately flush them down. In addition, you may also flush the medicines in the sink or toilet if the take-back option is not readily available.

Also, FDA recommends flushing your medication if it has the afterwards “rectal gel” or “transdermal scheme.” Remember, don’t flush your medicine if it isn’t on the list of approved flushes.

  • buprenorphine
  • Fentanyl
  • ben-zhydroco-done
  • hydrocodone
  • hydromorphone
  • meperidine
  • methadone
  • morphine
  • oxycodone
  • oxymorphone
  • sodium oxy bate
  • tapentadol

Disposing of medicines in the household trash- 

If a drug take-back program is not feasible, almost all medicines, except those on the FDA flush list, can be dumped in household trash. 

Follow these steps to do it:

  • Drugs are mixed with something undesirable, such as used coffee grounds, dirt etc. to make them look unrecognizable
  • Put the medicine mixture in a safe zipped bag to prevent the drug from leaking or spilling out.
  • Throw the container in the garbage.
  • Remove any personal information from the list

In case, if there is any question about your medication, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. If there is no drug take-back facility locally available in your area, then read the instructions about safe disposal. As every drug is not safe to dispose of in the trash.

Further, one must get rid of any unused or expired medication. As it is important to get rid of it as soon as possible. Due to the reason that people might take it accidentally or misuse potentially unsafe drugs.

Disposing of Fentanyl Patches:

The fentanyl patch is a powerful opioid medicine used for the treatment of pain relief. Further, these medicines can be potentially dangerous for the people it’s not prescribed for. This adhesive patch on the skin delivers medicine through the skin. If you happen to find a leftover patch while cleaning up, be careful not to touch it or else you could accidentally harm yourself. 

Disposing of Inhaler Products:

One environmental concern is discarding inhaler products. Specifically, inhalers are used for patients who are asthmatic or suffer other breathing problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Always look for handling instructions on the labelling of inhalers and aerosol products.

Due to the case, these products are very harmful to the environment if it is punctured or thrown into a fire or incinerator. For the safe disposal of the products, follow local regulations and laws, and contact your trash and recycling facility.

Contact the local trash or recycling center to find out about the safe disposal of any aerosol products.

Other methods of disposal are also discussed, which are controlled medications treatment recommended by international authorities like WHO;


In this method, waste materials are directly placed into a land disposal site. This doesn’t need any special treatment and is considered the most practised method for solid waste disposal. Furthermore, the waste left untreated must be rapidly covered with other municipal waste to prevent scavenging. Plus, groundwater must not be contaminated during the process.

Waste immobilization-

This is done through encapsulation. Expired drugs are filled in a solid block with drums made up of plastic and steel. Then, these drums are filled with a mixture of lime, cement and water in appropriate proportions up to 75 per cent capacity. The sealed drums must be covered with fresh municipal solid waste.

Waste immobilization (initiation)- 

In this method, the products are removed from the package like removing pills from the blister. Then the paste is formed to make a mixture of water, cement and lime. After that, this mixture is placed in a landfill and decanted into normal urban waste.


Some liquid medicines like syrups and intravenous fluids can be flushed into the sewer after dilution. 

Burning in open containers- 

Burning of medicines in open containers at low-temperature cause the release of toxic pollutants into the environment. Though not a preferred method, small quantities of medicines can be disposed of through this method.


Medium and high-temperature incineration devices are employed and optimized at a medium temperature through the combustible process (800-1000ºC). While high-temperature incineration works at a temperature above 1000ºC, it is recommended only when necessary.

Chemical decomposition- 

As the method is tedious and time-consuming, it is useful only for small quantities of medicines when the appropriate incineration method is not available.

Expired medicines must be sorted into different categories for different disposal methods before disposal. These are classified into three basic categories depending on the dosage: 

  • Solids, 
  • Semi-solids  
  • Powders
  • Liquids
  • aerosols canisters

However, special disposal is required for controlled substances like narcotics and psychotropic substances. Also applicable to anti-infective drugs; anti-neo-plastics; antiseptics and disinfectants etc. 

Harmful effects of expired medicines:

The efficacy of expired medical products is reduced and there is a change in their chemical composition. Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth, which can lead to other infections and more serious illnesses. Once the expiration date is passed, the medicine doesn’t remain effective. Failing to safely dispose of old medications, especially opioids, can lead to dangerous handling if go into the wrong hands. The young immature children can end up in emergency rooms if get hold of medicines by mistake. Finally, expired medicines pose bigger and more serious risks for children and pets if taken by mistake. The above-listed reasons support that controlled medication treatment is essential for the safe disposal of expired medication.


It is essential to dispose of dangerous, unwanted and unused expired medicines in a rightful manner. Children and pets may be especially at risk of consuming these drugs. Medications can be hazardous, and even fatal if any human or animal consumes them accidentally.

Cleanco Waste Treatment
Author: Cleanco Waste Treatment

Cleanco Waste Treatment is one of Dubai's top Waste Management companies, offering the best facilities management services for any sort of waste since the 1980s. For the sake of our nation's ecology and public health, we use the best practices from across the world and adhere to rigorous world norms. For More Information About Cleanco Please Call Now!! +971 2 444 5410 and Email us:

Cleanco Waste Treatment

Cleanco Waste Treatment is one of Dubai's top Waste Management companies, offering the best facilities management services for any sort of waste since the 1980s. For the sake of our nation's ecology and public health, we use the best practices from across the world and adhere to rigorous world norms. For More Information About Cleanco Please Call Now!! +971 2 444 5410 and Email us:

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