Frequently Asked Questions
Can you flush medicine down the toilet?
Until recently, federal guidelines recommended flushing or sewering of unused medications to prevent drug diversion. This practice is now known to cause contamination of waterways that may negatively impact public health and wildlife.
For household medications, the FDA website provides clarity on how to safely dispose of them. The FDA, DEA, and EPA recommend drug take back or mailback programs as the first line approach. If drug take back programs are not available in your community, check the FDA website or view this helpful infographic for instructions on what to do.
How do you safely dispose of medication?
The most important part of eliminating drug diversion in homes is to get drugs out of the home. If you’re an individual consumer, you can take your expired or unused medication to a Stericycle collection kiosk at your local pharmacy, hospital, or police station, or dispose of it with a Seal&Send medication mail back envelope.
The DEA also hosts public drug take back days twice a year (usually in April and October) at local law enforcement agencies. If you’re not sure which options are available to you, talk to your pharmacist about the best way to safely dispose of your medications. Drug take back is the safest and most environmental sound option for consumer drug disposal and should always be used unless it’s unavailable in your community.
Pharmaceutical waste generated from a commercial business (such as a hospital, doctor’s office or pharmacy) is regulated differently than medication waste generated from a residence or household. Commercially-generated pharmaceutical waste is regulated by EPA, DEA and DOT for management, transportation and disposal.
If you’re a business or organization, it’s critical to partner with a knowledgeable and qualified waste expert like Stericycle to help you navigate this regulatory landscape. In addition, Stericycle offers specialized disposal solutions for controlled substances that are further regulated by the DEA due to their addictive potential.
Does the drug waste collected in a kiosk count toward the host location's EPA/RCRA generator status?
No. Household/consumer generated waste, including medications, is exempt from regulations by EPA under RCRA, so material collected in a kiosk does not count toward the host location's EPA generator status (LQG, SQG. CESQG/VSQG).
What do I do if there are no drug take back programs in my community?
Stericycle provides drug take back services to governments, pharmacies, non-profits, and businesses, who in turn provide these services to their communities. If your community doesn’t have safe or easily accessible programs, contact your local elected officials, health department, pharmacies, drug coalitions, employers, or other community organizations and ask them to provide safe drug disposal programs in your area. To help identify the nearest location, the DEA has an online database, which is searchable by zip code or city/state. The agency updates its list frequently to give the latest information about approved disposal locations.
Who can host a drug take back kiosk?
Drug take back kiosks can be hosted by DEA registered facilities, including pharmacies, hospitals with onsite pharmacies, long-term care facilities with onsite pharmacy services and law enforcement agencies. Medication collection kiosks are most effective when hosted by locations that are open to the public and conveniently accessible by most people in a community.
What can and can’t be accepted in the kiosks?
Drug take back kiosks can accept consumer/household generated medications, including prescription pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications and supplements. This may include DEA schedules II-V controlled substances, tablets/pills, liquids, creams, and aerosol inhalers.
The collection kiosks cannot accept pharmaceutical waste that is commercially generated by a business or organization, DEA schedule I controlled substances/illicit drugs, needles or sharps, or any non-pharmaceutical items such as thermometers or bulk chemicals.
All kiosk units provided by Stericycle have signage on the front that identifies accepted and prohibited items for users in both English and Spanish. Additionally, state Boards of Pharmacy may impose further restrictions on the types of medications that can be collected in drug kiosks.
Which agencies regulate drug take back kiosk programs?
Drug take back kiosk programs are regulated by:
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
- U.S. Department of Transportation
- State and Local Boards of Pharmacy, Departments of Health, and Departments of Environmental Quality (in some regions)
What are the DEA requirements for hosting a drug collection kiosk?
DEA regulations for hosting a drug collection kiosk can be found in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 1317. Section 1317.75 outlines specific requirements for collection receptacles such as kiosks. Stericycle provides a variety of training materials to help new kiosk customers comply with DEA regulations regarding topics such as kiosk placement, signage, security and record-keeping.
How do you register to become a consumer medication collection site with DEA?
DEA allows existing DEA registrants such as pharmacies to modify their registration online to add collector status. Stericycle will walk you through this process as part of the kiosk service setup.
What waste packaging options does Stericycle offer, and which one is best for me?
Stericycle has two waste packaging options.
The first and most popular option is our onsite tech-assist service model. This service includes a Stericycle technician coming onsite to the host location to service the kiosk and package the waste according to DOT regulations. This time-saving option is more convenient for site staff and reduces the compliance burden for the host location.
The second option is a self-service model. With this model, site staff must witness and perform the steps to package the material collected in the kiosk for shipment and prepare the kiosk with new collection supplies. This cost-saving option increases the compliance, training, and labor responsibilities for the host site, but can offer a more economical option when minimizing cost is a top priority.
What kinds of data can be tracked from drug take back kiosk programs and how can it be used?
Stericycle’s data analytics reporting capabilities are an important feature of our drug take back programs. We provide regular reporting on pounds of drug waste received by location and in aggregate, as well as on number of kiosk boxes serviced.
This data can be used to ensure your program is in full compliance with DEA regulations, optimize your program service frequencies, and prove program usage to justify the return on your investment.
You can also use this data to report back to the communities you serve with press releases and other marketing communications to let them know how many pounds of drugs you’ve removed from peoples’ homes – possibly preventing drug abuse and saving lives!
Which states and territories are Stericycle’s drug take back solutions available in?
Currently, both of Stericycle’s kiosk service models are available in 47 states. We can also offer our self-service option in Connecticut, Alaska and Hawaii– please contact us for details.
Our Seal&Send medication mail back envelopes are available for use in all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.
What are the dimensions of Stericycle’s kiosk?
Our standard kiosk model has a footprint of 24" wide x 24" deep and is 48" high.