The Problem

Pharmaceuticals – including prescription and over-the-counter drugs – can lengthen and improve our quality of life. But when leftover or expired drugs are thrown in the trash, in the toilet, or down the drain, they end up in landfills, sewage systems, or wastewater treatment facilities that are not equipped to remove them. From there, they enter our waterways, where they threaten wildlife and the quality of our drinking water sources.

When stored in the home long term, they can fall into the wrong hands – leading to drug abuse, misuse, or accidental poisonings and contributing to the U.S. prescription drug abuse epidemic. In fact, seven out of 10 people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends and family, often from medicine cabinets.

The Solution

Drug “take-back” programs that let people conveniently drop off unused drugs for safe disposal are a key strategy to help prevent these problems. But to be effective, these programs must be sustainably funded and available to consumers year-round.

Since 2005, PSI has advocated for “extended producer responsibility” (EPR) laws that make drug companies pay for and manage drug take-back programs. We led the charge to change federal law and the associated Drug Enforcement Administration regulations to let retail pharmacies collect controlled substances, allowing them to host convenient drug take-back programs for their customers. PSI also lays the groundwork for safe drug disposal by supporting voluntary programs, partnerships, and public education for states unwilling to take a regulatory approach or as a step toward EPR legislation.

PSI runs confidential calls for our government Full Members to learn, strategize, and exchange insights about drug take-back programs and EPR legislation.

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How We’re Leading the Way


PSI provided model bill language, technical assistance, and best practices to the New York Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation, and provided lobbying support to the New York Product Stewardship Council, all of which was pivotal in passing New York State Drug Take Back Act. We are now working closely with a coalition of local governments, waste management companies, environmental groups, and other key stakeholders to ensure the law is implemented effectively.


PSI runs pilot programs and training workshops to demonstrate that drug take-back programs are simple, effective, and worthwhile initiatives for retail and hospital pharmacies. We published a How-to Guide for Drug Take-Back implementation that has been widely distributed across the country by government agencies, health organizations, and countless other community groups.


In partnership with the Oklahoma (OK) Department of Environmental Quality, PSI ran a multi-stakeholder dialogue meeting to find consensus on an action plan for pharmaceuticals and medical sharps stewardship in the state. PSI also facilitates an OK stakeholder group that coordinates initiatives that support the safe disposal of these products. Participants include OK state and local governments, pharmacy boards, university institutes, solid waste managers, recyclers, environmentalists, waste-to-energy companies, and public health professionals.

How You Can Help

Visit PSI's Safe Drug Disposal Portal to learn more about drug take-back and get free outreach materials to spread the word.

Buy only the medication you need, store it securely, and dispose of leftovers promptly. Find out where to go for safe drug disposal in your state.

Ask your pharmacy to launch a drug take-back program. Give them PSI’s How-to Guide for Drug Take-Back for guidance.

Pass an EPR law to sustainably fund drug take-back in your state. Contact PSI for assistance.

Raise awareness about safe drug disposal in your community.

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