Old Medicine Bottles: Did You Know They’re Still Hazardous?

If you take daily medication, those orange prescription bottles can pile up quickly. There are many options for recycling your pill containers, but did you know that even empty containers can still pose as a hazard?

The bottle may be empty, but there’s still medication in it.

We usually don’t pay attention to those medicine bottles once they are empty. For safety reasons, you’ll remove any personal health information and toss the container in recycling or the trash. However, residual amounts of medication are still in that bottle, and this can be a health hazard if thrown out or recycled. Trace amounts of medication can still find their way into landfills, waterways, and more. While it may seem like overkill, it is anything but.

How to really ensure safety when disposing of old medication bottles.

After you’ve removed your personal health information, take the extra step to make sure that the bottle is clean. This can be as simple as using a little bit of soap and water to remove any residual medication so that the bottle is no longer deemed a hazard. Of course, it all depends on the type of drug that was in the container. OTC medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and combination cold medications don’t require this step usually, but even the extra precaution is good for the environment. Controlled substances, such as morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, diazepam, lorazepam, zolpidem can still be coated in medication bottles and should be cleaned before recycling or reusing because of the contents.

Regulatory Compliance

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) provides guidance regarding medications that are known environmental hazards. These are called hazardous pharmaceutical wastes or RCRA drug wastes. Pharmaceutical wastes that meet the RCRA definitions. These include:

  • P-listed drugs, such as nicotine and warfarin
  • U-listed drugs, including lindane and melphalan
  • Pharmaceuticals with heavy metals, including the preservative thimerosal

While these laws apply to drugs that are unused and require disposal, going the extra mile for clean and safe bottles is good for the environment, communities, and landfills.

Rather than gamble with the environment and the health of our communities, it is best to speak with a medical waste removal agent, like Red Bags about disposing unused, unwanted or old medicine, including the empty bottles that come with them.

Of course, if you are a healthcare professional that is concerned with shredding pill bottles, our sister company, Legal Shred can offer assistance with its mobile shredding solutions. Our staff are trained in HIPAA compliance issues, from printed documents to electronic devices to destroying patient data. Patients can leave their printed handouts and pill bottles in a shred bin to be securely destroyed during a one-time visit. Red Bags can also assist with any unused or old medicine as well.

Want to learn more? Follow Red Bags’ blog to be up to date on the latest happenings in the medical waste industry.

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Service Areas: Long Island Medical Waste; New York City Medical Waste; Westchester Medical Waste and more!