Although research is ongoing to determine the level of risk and long-term effects to humans and the environment, the Bureau of Sanitation has taken a proactive role in minimizing the amount of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs), and endocrine disrupting compounds (ECDs) entering the sewer system. To this end, the City of Los Angeles adopted the No Drugs Down the Drain (N3D) Program, a public education campaign to change the general practice of disposing unused, expired, or unwanted medications down the drain and provide safe alternative disposal options. The City of Los Angeles collaborated with the Los Angeles County Sanitation District and Orange County Sanitation Districts in developing the N3D program in order to have a regional approach in educating the general public of the possible risks and impacts of PPCPs and ECDs that are present in the aquatic systems across the Country. The Bureau of Sanitation Industrial Waste Management Division administers the City’s N3D Program.
Alternative Disposal Options for Unused and Unwanted Medication
Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program
The City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Sanitation, in cooperation with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, operates a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Program that provides a means for private residents to safely and legally dispose of their own unwanted household chemicals. All Los Angeles County residents can bring their HHW, free of charge, to the City's "Hazmobile" collection sites.
For more information about Household Hazardous Waste see the Solid Resources website.
Instead of disposing unused, unwanted, or expired medications into the toilet, drain or kitchen sink, the N3D program proposes two alternative disposal options:
- Taking the unused, unwanted, or expired medications to household hazardous waste (HHW) collection centers or events. The HHW collection centers are listed in the telephone books within the City of Los Angeles. Other cities in the County of Los Angeles have similar programs. The City of Los Angeles ’ HHW collection events are regularly advertised and held in collaboration with the County of Los Angeles; and
- Disposing the unused, unwanted, or expired medications in regular trash bins after carefully making them unpalatable or unusable by doing the following:
- Add water and then salt, ashes from the fireplace or barbeque pit, or dirt from the yard to pills or capsules in a bottle or add salt, ashes, or dirt to liquid medications.
- Wrap several layers of masking tape or duct tape to conceal, cover, and hide blister pack (pills in a card) labeling.
- Use the original container with safety caps, if available, and tape the lid to the container with duct tape or another type of sturdy tape.
- Remove patient’s name, drug name, prescription number, and other personal information from the container before disposal.
- Hide all medications in an outer container such as a paper bag, box, or plastic tub and wrap in several layers of newspaper to prevent discovery and removal from the trash.
- Place the intentionally “contaminated” medications in the trash as close to the pick-up time as possible so there is less chance that the medicine can fall into the wrong hands.