It's tempting to just pour those unused or expired pills down the drain, but improperly disposing of leftover pharmaceuticals can have serious consequences. Recent studies have shown that these chemicals turn back up in local water supplies, with known environmental impacts and possible human health consequences. Luckily, it's not difficult to find places that will take back unused medications. Many pharmacies have drop-off locations — CVS, for example, provides drug collection boxes for local law enforcement agencies that apply for them. Even if there isn't a drop box available all the time, many communities host periodic drug take-back days, when local law enforcement agencies will collect unwanted meds at a designated spot.
Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to truly recycle an unused pharmaceutical, says Lichtenstein. In most cases, the collected drugs are sent to a special facility where they're incinerated. The important thing here is to keep the drugs out of the regular solid waste stream, where they could present an environmental hazard or even endanger other people or animals who might come across them in the garbage.