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Pharmaceutical Waste Management for Businesses and Homeowners

Pharmaceutical Waste Management at Businesses

Effective August 21, 2019 - Florida has adopted by reference EPA’s 40 CFR 266 Subpart P and will become effective in Florida on August 21 (in 62-730 F.A.C.). Under the new rule (40 CFR 266.507) a container including its residues is considered RCRA empty and is not a hazardous waste. Additionally, Florida will adopt on the same day the nicotine exemption (40 CFR 261.33(e)) that applies to OTC nicotine replacement therapies such as patches, gums and lozenges.

“(a) Stock, dispensing and unit-dose containers. A stock bottle, dispensing bottle, vial, or ampule (not to exceed 1 liter or 10,000 pills); or a unit-dose container (e.g., a unit-dose packet, cup, wrapper, blister pack, or delivery device) is considered empty and the residues are not regulated as hazardous waste provided the pharmaceuticals have been removed from the stock bottle, dispensing bottle, vial, ampule, or the unit-dose container using the practices commonly employed to remove materials from that type of container.”

There are specific requirements for syringes (266.507(b)) and other containers and delivery devices (266.507(c) & (d). For more information pertaining to 62.730.186 F.A.C., please view  Rule 62.730.186 F.A.C..

Pharmaceutical waste generated by various types of medical facilities can be a difficult waste stream to manage. Not only does your facility need to comply with all applicable hazardous and solid waste regulations, they must also comply with any overlapping regulations from:

DEA’s disposal regulations including how your facility can becomes an "authorized collector."

Guidance on this website should help your facility stay in compliance with Florida environmental regulations.

Additional Guidance

National Pharmwaste Listserv 

Proper disposal of pharmaceutical waste is an emerging issue nationally as low-levels of various pharmaceutical compounds have been found in waterways across the country. This online group provides a national dialogue to organize, discuss and track ideas, projects, grants, and other issues. Participants are primarily from various government agencies, but others are welcome to join.

Join the Listserv or read the Listserv Archives.


Pharmaceutical Waste Management for Homeowners

Do not flush your medicines down the toilet or down the drain. Use a disposal site or collection event when available, or dispose of old medications as recommended in EPA Fact Sheet.

Disposal Sites Or Collection Events

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I take my unwanted medicine to my pharmacy?

New federal regulations allow pharmacies to have collection programs. You should check with your pharmacy to see if it is available. If not, consider asking them to start a collection program.

Can I take my unwanted medicine to a hospital?

New federal regulations allow hospitals to have collection programs. You should check with your hospital to see if it is available. If not, consider asking them to start a collection program.

Can I take my unwanted medicine to my doctor?

In most cases, your doctor will not be able to take them back. If the doctor is located in a hospital with a collection program, he will be able to direct you to the collection container.

Can I donate my unwanted medicine?

In most cases, no.

Can I put my unwanted medicine in my SHARPS container?

No, medicine should not be disposed in your sharps container. For information on sharps disposal: Needle Collection Programs

Mail Back Programs Through Retailers and Disposal Products

Some retailers sell mail back products for unwanted medicines. These are suitable for household use as long as you follow package directions. There are also products available to mix with medications so they can be disposed in the trash. They are also designed for use by homeowners.

None of these products are suitable for disposal of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals from a business like a medical facility or pharmacy. DEP does not regulate any of these products.

Can't find a disposal site or drop-off event?

If you cannot find a disposal site or drop-off event, place the medications in the household trash after taking precautions to prevent accidental ingestion by humans or animals.

To protect the environment, please use these guidelines instead of flushing medications:

  • Keep in the original container. This will help identify the contents if they are accidentally ingested.
  • Mark out your name & prescription number for safety.
  • For pills: add some water or soda to start dissolving them
  • For liquids: add something inedible like cat litter or dirt
  • Close the lid and secure with duct or packing tape
  • Place the bottle(s) inside an opaque (non see-through) container like a detergent container.
  • Tape that container closed.
  • Hide the container in the trash. Do not put it in the recycle bin.

DO NOT give drugs to anyone else

DO NOT flush drugs down the toilet.

DO NOT put drugs in the trash without disguising them – human may find them and misuse them.

Other Links


If you would like to discuss pharmaceutical waste management, contact the Waste Compliance Section at 850-245-8707.

Return to Hazardous Waste Management Main Page

Last Modified:
July 25, 2019 - 2:58pm

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