Unwanted Medication

Why is it important to dispose of unwanted medication properly?

Unwanted medication should never be flushed down the drain. Wastewater treatment plants are designed to remove solids and conventional pollutants from water—not pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals have been detected at low levels in streams, lakes, and rivers across the U.S.

Unwanted medication should also never be placed, as is, in the trash.  Medications left in original containers and placed in the trash as-is could potentially fall into the wrong hands. When it comes to disposing of unwanted medication properly, you have a couple choices: 


There are permanent drop-off locations for unwanted medications at many RI police stations (note that some are for town/city resident use only):

Municipality   Address   Residents Only
Bristol Police Department   395 METACOM AVE   NO
Barrington Police Department   100 FEDERAL ROAD   NO
Burrillville Police Department   1477 VICTORY HIGHWAY   NO
Charlestown Police Department   4901 OLD POST ROAD   NO
Foster Police Department   182 HOWARD HILL ROAD   NO
Hopkinton Police Department   406 WOODVILLE ROAD   NO
Johnston Police Department   1651 ATWOOD AVE   NO
Lincoln Police Department   100 OLD RIVER ROAD   NO
Little Compton Police Department   60 SIMMONS ROAD   NO
Middletown Police Department   123 VALLEY ROAD   NO
Narragansett Police Department   40 CASWELL STREET   NO
North Kingstown Police Department   8166 POST ROAD   YES
Providence Police Department   325 WASHINGTON STREET   YES
Richmond Police Department   1168 MAIN STREET   NO
Tiverton Police Department   20 INDUSTRIAL WAY   NO
Warwick Police Department   99 VETERANS MEMORIAL DRIVE   NO
Westerly Police Department   60 AIRPORT ROAD   NO
Woonsocket Police Department   242 CLINTON STREET   NO

You can also purchase pre-paid envelopes for mail-in return at major pharmacies. Ask your pharmacist. 

At Home

The RI Department of Health and the RI Department of Environmental Management have also approved a method for disposing medications safely at home. The steps are listed below:

  1. Take the medicine (prescription or over-the-counter) out of its original containers.
  2. Crush tablets or pills. Liquids, gels, ointments, or creams can be mixed with cat litter or used coffee grounds.
  3. Put the medicine into a disposable container with a lid or into a sealable plastic bag.
  4. Remove any personal information (including Rx number) on the empty containers by covering it with black permanent marker, or by peeling it off.
  5. Place the sealed container or bag in the trash. 
  6. Place the empty drug containers in the recycling.


Never place needles or containers of needles in your recycling bin or cart.  For proper disposal methods see www.rirrc.org/needles.