Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and University of Illinois Extension

Ways to Reduce Pharmaceutical Waste

While medicine collection programs play a role in reducing the amount of pharmaceutical chemicals entering the environment, there are other effective actions that we can take. Here are some things that you can do to reduce the amount of unwanted medicines in your home.

  • Purchase only as much medicine as you need.
  • Say “No” to samples if you know that you won’t use them.
  • Talk with your doctor about possible side effects, drug interactions, and the cost of medications. This can save you money as well as reduce pharmaceutical waste.
  • When starting a new medication, ask your doctor to prescribe a limited quantity.  Don’t automatically purchase a 30-, 60-, or 90-day supply. That way, if the medication doesn't suit you, less goes to waste. Do the same for your pet’s medications.
  • Keep track of what medications are in the home so that you don’t inadvertently purchase a product that you already have.
  • Store medicine at the proper temperature and humidity as recommended on the label. Due to high humidity, a bathroom is not always the best place to store medicine.  

Reducing pharmaceutical waste is not just the consumer’s responsibility. Everyone involved in the life cycle of pharmaceuticals needs to do their part to reduce the amount of pharmaceutical waste ending up in our environment.  The University of Wisconsin Extension provides waste reduction information for policy makers, pharmacies, healthcare providers, and manufacturers.

The American Veterinary Medical Association provides veterinary practices with a wealth of resources and best management practices to help them properly dispose of unused pharmaceuticals, including controlled substances, or hazardous wastes. Go to for more information.