Unused medicines - what to do with them?

While it may seem wasteful to dispose of unused medicines, saving them ‘just in case’ can be dangerous.

Most medicines deteriorate with time, which can lead to changes in their chemical composition. These changes can result in the medicines becoming less effective or, in some cases, potentially harmful if they are used after their expiry date.

Dispose of them safely

The Return Unwanted Medicines project is a free Australia-wide service. Local pharmacies collect out-of-date, unwanted and left-over medicines, and then arrange for them to be disposed of safely in high temperature incinerators.

In the past, people often flushed unwanted medicines down the sink or toilet, or put them in the rubbish to be taken to the tip. Disposing of medicines in these ways can damage the environment, particularly streams and soils.

Using the Return Unwanted Medicines scheme ensures that your unwanted medicines are disposed of safely without harming the environment, people or pets. It also helps to make your home safer.

Check first then dispose

You can take your unwanted and expired medicines back to a pharmacy at any time. So it’s a good idea, every so often, to gather all the medicines in your home, and:

  • remove any that have passed their expiry date
  • go through the remaining medicines and check whether you really need them, and remove any that you no longer need
  • take all the expired and no-longer needed medicines to a pharmacy.

For more information

If you would like to know more about what to do with unused medicines, talk to your pharmacist or download the Return Unwanted Medicines brochure.

The following pages contain further information on managing your medicines.