Drug/Sharps Disposal

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 Disposal

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:

  • Prescriptions
  • Over-the-counter 
  • Veterinary medications 
  • Vitamins 
  • Homeopathic treatment 

What is NOT accepted:  

  • Needles/Syringes 
  • Aerosols (inhalers) 
  • Items containing mercury 
  • Liquids 

Home Disposal

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.

Sharps Disposal

Home Disposal

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. 

Commercial Solutions

  • 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

How Can I Find More Information about Disposing of Sharps?