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TIPS: Why you shouldn’t flush your meds (and what to do instead)

What do you do with your outdated or unused medications at home? Many residents don’t know what to do with them, but here’s what you can do to protect your family and the environment.

Don’t flush them.

Some adults remember the days when it was common to flush old pharmaceuticals down the toilet. That way, they were gone without the risk posed by just disposing of them in the trash. But flushing your meds poses other problems.

Flushing pills down the toilet can be a water quality issue because wastewater treatment plants are not equipped to remove pharmaceuticals from the wastewater. Those medications could affect the environment and endanger public health.

What to do for safe disposal

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration regularly offers its National Take Back Initiatives, where secure collection events round-up your unused medications to be incinerated safely. But you don’t need to wait until then: Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District offers year-round recommendations, including the County Sheriff’s RX Drug Drop Box Program at local law enforcement agencies. The District also hosts “Pitch Those Pills!” safe drop-off events for unused pharmaceuticals. Our 2024 dates are listed below. All times are 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

  • May 1: 6148 Dunham Rd. Maple Heights 44137
  • June 5: 6115 State Rd., Parma 44134
  • July 10: 24485 Lorain Rd. North Olmsted, 44070
  • August 7: 9318 Broadview Rd, Broadview Heights 44147
  • September 4: 6160 Brecksville Rd., Independence 44131

Ongoing research and education

While researchers have no definitive evidence of human health risk directly related to flushing unused medications, the Sewer District has found education can help reduce this source of potential contamination. Especially since pharmaceuticals in wastewater is not a new issue. We have researched and monitored trends dating back to the mid-1990s and have been involved in state and national dialogue ever since. We will continue to be active in all pharmaceutical wastewater-treatment research and seek the best solutions to address any health and environmental concerns.

What about mercury?

If you have unused medicines in your bathroom at home, you should also check your first aid kits to see if you have mercury thermometers. Many homeowners still have and use them, but the mercury inside them can be hazardous to your health and the environment if they break.

You can bring your mercury thermometers to us for safe disposal, and as a perk, anyone who turns in a mercury thermometer receives a digital, mercury-free thermometer in exchange, while supplies last.

If you have a mercury containing device like a thermometer or even an old thermostat, our Environmental & Maintenance Services Center (EMSC) in Cuyahoga Heights serves as a free mercury drop-off point for any residents in our service area. Bring your mercury device (sealed and double-bagged in zip-lock bags or a plastic container) to EMSC, 4747 East 49th Street, Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio 44125 weekdays between 8:00 A.M. and 3:30 P.M. The mercury-containing devices are collected and stored in sealed containers, in a secure storage container until they are sent to a mercury-recycling facility.

For more information about our Mercury Thermometer and Gauge Exchange Program, please contact our Water Quality & Industrial Surveillance department at any time at or at 216-641-6000.