Improper disposal of unused or expired drugs and hypodermic needles (sharps) can pose a risk to family members, solid waste professionals, and the environment. Needle-stick injuries can cause infection and spread disease, while accidental ingestion of drugs can result in serious injury and death. In addition, medicine and syringes may pollute water resources and impact wildlife if flushed down the drain. Protect the environment and limit the risk of ingestion and needle-sticks by taking advantage of these disposal options.
Drug Collection Sites
The best way to dispose of most types of unused or expired medicine is to bring it to an authorized drug disposal location immediately.
- Local Pharmacies – Some pharmacies offer year-round take back of pharmaceutical drugs including: CVS at 8 Union St., Auburn; CVS at 446 Sabattus St., Lewiston; and Walgreens at 53 Paris St. Norway. Additional locations near you can be found here.
- Community Drug Take Back Events – Typically in April and October each year select schools, pharmacies, and other municipal facilities will host free events. For the most current information visit the DEA’s website.
What is typically accepted at collection sites:
- Veterinary medications
- Homeopathic treatment
What is NOT accepted:
- Aerosols (inhalers)
- Items containing mercury
If you cannot get to a drug take back location promptly, follow these steps to ensure safe disposal.
- Very few medications are on the FDA flush list. Unless noted on the container, do NOT flush medications down the drain.
- Mix prescription drugs uncrushed with an undesirable substance, like coffee grounds or kitty litter in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of in the trash.
- Remove any personal information from prescription containers before disposing.
If sharps are used in the home, here are several no cost or low-cost disposal solutions to consider.
- Needle Clipping Devices – Small handheld devices clip off and store up to 1,500 syringe needles rendering the syringe safe for regular disposal with household trash. Once the device is full it can also be safely thrown out without any additional precautions.
NEW: Free needle-clipping devices are being offered courtesy of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Becton, Dickinson and Company, and Rite Aid Pharmacy. Maine Residents can request a free needle-clipping device here.
- Mail-Back Disposal Options – Many pharmaceutical companies offer pre-paid mail-back programs free of charge to patients using their injectables. Check here to see if your medicine is covered. Local pharmacies may also carry pre-paid mail-back sharps containers or envelopes.
- Home Sharps Disposal Containers - Rigid home sharps containers with locking lids may be placed in your household trash. Local pharmacies may carry these containers for sale, while some manufacturers may provide them for free through patient support programs.
- DIY Disposal Containers - As a last resort, you can also make one using rigid, puncture-resistant containers that you can’t see through (i.e. bleach or detergent bottles, coffee cans, etc.). Be sure to label the containers “Do Not Recycle” and reinforce containers with heavy-duty tape before disposing of in household trash, not recycling.
Sharps Collection Sites
When you are away from home here are some public options.
- Maine Turnpike Authority Plazas
- Local Hospitals - Some hospitals may accept used sharps and dispose of them as part of their waste stream. Contact the hospital’s Environmental Services Department for more information.
- Lewiston Public Sharps Disposal Sites (PDF) – The City of Lewiston sponsors a number of sharp boxes located on this map. For the most current information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (207) 513-3003.
- For small to medium sized medical waste generators such as medical facilities, educational institutions, funeral homes, and long-term care facilities there are number of full-service or self-service sharps management options.
Ways to Reduce Sharp Waste
- Consider returning unused sharps to a needle exchange program. Contact the Church of Safe Injection; email@example.com for locations and hours in Lewiston.
How Can I Find More Information about Disposing of Sharps?
- Call your trash or public health department about options.
- Ask your health care provider or local pharmacist if they can dispose of your used needles.
- Contact the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal at (800) 643-1643 or visit the Safe Needle website.
- Proper Disposal of Household Sharps in the State of Maine Brochure. (PDF) - For more information, contact the Maine Department of Environmental Protection Biomedical Waste Program at (207) 287-7688 or visit https://www.maine.gov/dep/waste/biomedical/sharps.html.