What do you do with expired medications? Send them to jail!

My Old Medicine bottle/ jar collection
Image by aussiegall via Flickr

As a kid, I remembered discovering all the mysterious bottles of pills and medicines in my grandparents’medicine chest. As an adult, I was horrified to realize that many of those pills were seriously out of date – some by decades – risking their health and safety.

But how do you get rid of this stuff?  Recently, I went through all my medicine cabinets and drawers and was surprised to see how many expired cold medicines, cough medicines and other sundry drugs were lying there, years past their prime. I found unused tylenol w/codeine from a past bronchitis, a muscle relaxer from an ancient injury and various other medicines from maladies past. It was my grandparents medicine chest all over again!

I collected all the half empty amber plastic pill bottles, the expired cold remedies, dead drugs & dried up ointments and then tried to figure out how to dispose of them. You can’t just throw them out and risk them dissipating into the soil. You can’t flush them down and pollute our waters. The pharmacy doesn’t want them back. Our weekly recology pick up specifically forbids medical waste.

Searching online, I discovered that the  local police station accepts residential medical waste.  I drove into the station expecting to walk up to a stiff-faced, judgmental officer and hand over my dangerous goods.  Instead, I found a shiny and secure drop box outside their door. I spilled my drugs. I lightened my load. I made a quick getaway. It all felt faintly illicit and, therefore, slightly thrilling. My drugs, on the other hand, were now in police custody!

Check my cabinet now! It is not your grandparent’s medicine chest. It is filled with just a couple current prescriptions and first aid items. The remainer is my collection of potions & lotions promising beauty and longevity. But, I should note that even these vials of beauty elixir have expiration dates. As, ultimately, so do we all!


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