Medicine and Medical Waste
Medicines and medical waste present unique challenges for solid waste disposal. Since many medicines are either still active or have active byproducts, flushing is generally not advised. Sewage treatment plants may not be equipped to remove these compounds from waste water, which is then expelled back into the environment. In order to prevent this inadvertent pollution, consider the following:
Read the label on the medication. Many times, the original label will have disposal directions printed on it. If the original label recommends flushing, then it is okay to do so. This is an exception to the advice above and should only be applied to this case.
Dispose of unused medications in household waste. In order to reduce drug abuse enabled through discarded medication, it is advised that the medicine be removed from the original packaging, mixed with an unpalatable substance (used coffee grounds or used cat litter work well), and placed in a sealed container. Afterwards, place in your regular household waste container.
Participate in a drug take-back program. The Costco pharmacy operates a drug take-back program that will accept unused medication, though the process can be lengthy due to counting and logging requirements. The Kennewick Police Department offers an annual program that may be utilized.
Medical waste is often contaminated with bodily fluids and may be considered a biological hazard. Commonplace first aid items, such as bandages, can be disposed of in your household waste container. For residents, needles may be placed in a two-liter bottle, sealed with the cap, taped, and disposed of with regular household waste. For businesses, it is a legal requirement that they contract with a medical waste handler. Clinics, acupuncturists, and other small quantity medical waste generators can participate in a mail-back collection program. Please see the links below.
Waste Management Clinic Solutions webpage
Stericycle Biohazard Mailback Program webpage