How to Safely Dispose of Unwanted Household Medications

Don’t flush your drugs!  Flushing unwanted and expired medications down the toilet is the least desirable of all disposal alternatives.  Wastewater treatment facilities are not equipped to remove all traces of pharmaceutical chemicals.  If you flush your drugs, a portion of those contaminants will reach local waters.  Scientific studies show the chemicals in many drugs can harm aquatic life. Proper disposal of unwanted medications helps protect your family, your community and the environment.

  • Keep Pollutants out of our water – Research has linked pharmaceutical pollutants to reproductive defects in fish, resistance to antibiotics, and the development of drug resistant germs.
  • Prevent accidental poisonings – Many children and the elderly are often victims of accidental poisonings due to medications in the home.
  • Reduce drug abuse and illegal use – More teenagers abuse prescription and over-the-counter drugs than any illicit drug except marijuana.

Here Are Ways to Safely Dispose of Unwanted Medications

1. Pour pills into a sealable plastic bag. Liquids should be left in their bottles and placed into sealed plastic bag to prevent leakage.  Take filled bags to a drop off location near you. See below to see a list of drop off locations in West Contra Costa County.

2. Visit your local Walgreens to purchase a prepaid postage return envelope.

3. Visit websites such as U.S. Department of Justice for information on the when the next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is scheduled, and The Drug Take Back Network for the latest news on local take back program efforts, product stewardship, useful resources, and drop off locations all over the nation.

Drop Off Locations in West Contra Costa

Hercules, Pinole, and Richmond Police Departments along with the West County Wastewater District office are drop-off locations for unwanted and expired home-generated pharmaceuticals (*Controlled substances are not allowed in the collection bins per State and Federal Laws).  These convenient locations allow West Contra Costa County residents to properly dispose of old pharmaceuticals and keep them out of the water supply and garbage.  The program is a collaborative effort between RecycleMore, West County Resource Recovery Inc., and the participating locations.

  • Hercules City Hall, 111 Civic Drive, Hercules;
    24-Hour drop off bins are located outside of main entrance
  • Pinole Police Station: 880 Tennent Avenue, Pinole;
    Lobby hours: 8am – 5pm Mon – Fri
  • West County Wastewater District Office: 2910 Hilltop Drive, Richmond;
    Lobby hours: 8am – 5pm Mon – Fri, closed 12pm – 1pm
  • El Cerrito Recycling + Environmental Resource Center:  7501 Schmidt Lane, El Cerrito;
    8:00am – 5pm Mon – Fri, 9am – 4:45pm Sat – Sun
  • Richmond Fire Department Station #63: 5201 Valley View Rd, El Sobrante;
    24-hour drop off bin is located outside of main entrance
  • Richmond Police Station 1701 Regatta Blvd. Richmond;
    7am – 8pm Mon – Sun
  • West County HHW Collection Facility: 101 Pittsburg Avenue, Richmond; 
    Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat. from 9am to 4pm, closed 12-12:30pm 

Additional Locations, Please call ahead for drop-off hours:

  • CVS/Pharmacy 1401 TARA HILL DR, PINOLE, CA 94564    (510) 724-8880
  • KAISER Pharmacy 1301 PINOLE VALLEY RD 1ST FLOR, PINOLE, CA 94564    (510) 243-4311          
  • KAISER Richmond Hospital Main Pharmacy 901 NEVIN AVENUE, RICHMOND, CA 94801        (510) 307-3160
  • CVS/Pharmacy 2151 MEEKER AVE, RICHMOND, CA 94804        (510) 231-5922          
  • CVS/Pharmacy 10650 SAN PABLO AVE, EL CERRITO, CA 94530       (510) 527-3210
  • CVS/Pharmacy 670 EL CERRITO PLAZA, EL CERRITO, CA 94530       (510) 524-5895

* For additional locations, go here: https://med-project.org/locations/contra-costa/convenient-kiosks/

For more information call 510-609-1218.

Find out what to do with your unused or expired medications here.

Needles & Sharps

Why You Should Be Careful with Sharps

Improper disposal of used or unwanted “sharps” (needles, syringes, lancets and other sharps items) can cause a serious injury and pose health risks to the public and waste workers. Waste workers are exposed to potential needle stick injuries and potential infection when inappropriate containers break open inside garbage trucks or sharps become exposed when sent to recycling facilities. Housekeepers and janitors may also be injured when loose sharps poke through trash bags. Used needles can also cause painful infections and transmit serious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis.

The Law

Beginning on September 1, 2008, State law made it illegal to dispose of home-generated sharps waste in the trash or recycling containers, and requires that all sharps waste be transported to a collection center in an approved bio-hazard sharps container.

The California Health and Safety Code defines “home-generated sharps waste” as hypodermic needles, pen needles, intravenous needles, lancets, and other devices that are used to penetrate the skin for the delivery of medications derived from a household, including a multifamily residence or household.

Residents can visit the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) website to find out if the pharmaceutical manufacturer has a free sharps container available. Senate Bill 486, passed in October 2009, required that by July 1, 2010:

“…all pharmaceutical manufacturers that sell or distribute a medication in California that is usually intended to be self-injected at home through the use of a hypodermic needle, pen needle, intravenous needle or any similar device, to 1) submit a plan describing their actions to support or provide for the safe collection and proper disposal of the waste devices, and 2) educate consumers about safe sharps management and collection opportunities.”

The CalRecycle website that lists the manufacturers who have turned in a plan is www.calrecycle.ca.gov/homehazwaste/sharps/reporting/default.htm

If residents need more containers they can ask the pharmacy where they get their medications. For further information about obtaining biohazard containers or mail-back programs (most of these companies charge a fee for the containers):

Mail-Back Services for a fee:

• GRP & Associates www.sharpsdisposal.com (800) 207-0976

• Republic Services www.republicsharps.com (855) 737-7871

• Sharps Compliance, Inc. www.sharpsinc.com (800) 772-5657

• Stericycle, Inc. https://store.stericycle.com (800) 355-8773

• WCM (Waste & Compliance Management, Inc.) www.wastewise.com (866) 436-9264

• Waste Management MedWaste Tracker www.wm.com/residential/medical-waste.jsp (866) 803-7561

• XMED Disposal, Inc. www.stericycle.com/xmed (866) 735-9709

We do not endorse any of these companies and do not intend this to be a complete list.

Drop Off Locations in West Contra Costa

Hercules, Pinole and Richmond Police Departments along with the West County Wastewater District office are drop-off locations for needles, sharps, and lancets.  These convenient locations allow West Contra Costa County residents to properly dispose of sharps keep them out of the garbage.  The program is a collaborative effort between RecycleMore, West County Resource Recovery Inc., and the participating locations.

  • Hercules City Hall, 111 Civic Drive, Hercules;
    24-Hour drop off bins are located outside of main entrance
  • Pinole Police Station: 880 Tennent Avenue, Pinole;
    Lobby hours: 8am – 5pm Mon – Fri
  • West County Wastewater District Office: 2910 Hilltop Drive, Richmond;
    Lobby hours: 8am – 5pm Mon – Fri, closed 12pm – 1pm
  • El Cerrito Recycling + Environmental Resource Center:  7501 Schmidt Lane, El Cerrito;
    8:00am – 5pm Mon – Fri, 9am – 4:45pm Sat – Sun
  • Richmond Fire Department Station #63: 5201 Valley View Rd, El Sobrante;
    24-hour drop off bin is located outside of main entrance
  • Richmond Police Station 1701 Regatta Blvd. Richmond;
    7am – 8pm Mon – Sun
  • Richmond Senior Center: 2525 MacDonald Avenue, Richmond;
    8:30am – 5pm Mon – Fri, 8am – 11am Sat
  • Richmond Annex Senior Center: 5801 Huntington Avenue, Richmond;
    24-hour drop off bin is located outside of main entrance
  • West County HHW Collection Facility: 101 Pittsburg Avenue, Richmond;
    Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat. from 9am to 4pm, closed 12-12:30pm

Find out what to do with your used needles and sharps here.