Disposing of Prescription Drugs and Medical Waste

Instructions for the proper disposal of prescription drugs, regulated and unregulated medical waste.

Prescription Drugs

Unsure what to do with your leftover prescription drugs? One thing is for sure – DON’T put them down the drain! Water treatment plants and septic tanks are not designed to remove these chemicals and they can adversely affect aquatic life and all animals (including ourselves) if they wind up in the water stream. Instead, take pharmaceuticals and other prescription drugs to a designated disposal site. Click here for a map of Vermont’s Permanent Prescription Drug Disposal Sites. Click here for the Department of Health’s guide on how to safely use, store and dispose of prescription drugs.

Unregulated Medical WasteACSWMD Sharps

Also known as Home Generated Medical Waste, includes syringes, sharps, and other medical waste such as bandages, dressings, or medical bags that are generated from home medical use, and not administered by a licensed healthcare professional.

Bandages, dressings or medical bags should be placed in a separate container, sealed, and clearly labeled before being placed in the regular household trash.

See this article for more information on how to dispose of syringes and sharps from unregulated medical waste or home generated medical waste.

Regulated Medical Waste

This is the portion of waste generated in the medical industry which requires special handling and treatment prior to disposal. For detailed information on treatment and disposal requirements please refer to the State of Vermont Handling and Treatment of Medical Waste Procedures, or Medical Waste Handling 101 from MedAssure. Medical Waste Handling 101

What is Regulated Medical Waste?

The following types of solid waste are considered Regulated Medical Waste (RMW) if generated in the medical industry or by a health-care professional while in your home.

  • Pathological Waste: human blood, blood products, and other body fluids. Any liquid waste including blood, blood products, or items saturated or dripping with blood or other potentially infectious body fluids
  • Cultures and shocks of infectious agents
  • Sharps (used or unused): objects that are capable of cutting or penetrating the skin and inducing subdermal inoculation of an infectious agent. This includes needles, Pasteur pipettes and scalpel blades.
  • Animal waste: animal carcasses, body parts, bedding and other items from animals that are known or suspected by either the Department of Health or the Department of Agriculture of being contaminated with organisms that can produce disease in humans; and that disposal by burial or other ordinarily acceptable means would not sufficiently reduce the risk of transmission of a disease to humans or other animals.
  • Chemotherapy waste: drugs used in chemotherapy.
  • Infectious isolation waste: biological waste and discarded materials contaminated with blood, body fluids, excretion, exudates or secretions from humans who are isolated to protect others from dangerous incommunicable diseases.
  • Biotechnological by-product effluents: any discarded preparation made from genetically altered living organisms.