Proper medication and sharps disposal is very important. Along with the health and safety risks associated with the misuse and the abuse of pharmaceuticals, human and animal medications can have the potential to negatively impact our environment. Flushing old medications or sending them to the landfill can create the potential for these chemicals to end up in our lakes, rivers, streams, soils, and ground water.
The Black Hawk County Solid Waste Management Commission does not have the authorization to accept medication and sharps during our drop-off events, but there are many local options for the safe and proper disposal of these materials.
Donate Unexpired Medication
The non-profit SafeNetRx (a program though the Iowa Department of Public Health) accepts donated medications in their original sealed container or in tamper-evident packaging, with an expiration date at least six months from the date of donation. Any organization or individual can donate. SafeNetRx helps Iowans in need of assistance to receive medications and medical supplies at little or no cost. This program also helps to keep these usable medications from being flushed or landfilled – and keeps them out of our environment.
Through participation in this program, Greenwood Pharmacy (2104 Kimball Avenue in Waterloo) is able to accept qualifying donations. Notify the pharmacist that your medications may be acceptable for donation.
Safe Disposal Options for Medication and Sharps
Several local programs accept materials from Black Hawk County residents:
Pharmacy Take Back Program
The Iowa Pharmacy Association oversees the EcoReturns Safe Medication Disposal Program. Many local pharmacies collect a variety of old or unused medications for safe disposal through this program. They are not able to accept controlled substances, liquids (over 4 oz), medical sharps, test strips, thermometers, gauze, or other non-drug products. Search for participating pharmacy locations or check with your local pharmacist. Medications are shipped to a disposal facility for incineration.
Permitted Drop-off Locations
With special permission from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, medications AND controlled substances can be dropped off at:
- Allen Hospital Clinic Pharmacy
146 W. Dale Street (Entrance 3, 1st Floor), Waterloo
- Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office
225 East 6th Street, Waterloo
- Cedar Falls Public Safety Services
4600 Main Street, Cedar Falls
- Greenwood Pharmacy
2104 Kimball Avenue, Waterloo
- MercyOne La Porte City Pharmacy
601 Hwy 218 North, La Porte City
- MercyOne Waterloo Pharmacy
2710 St. Francis Drive, Suite 101, Waterloo
- Prairie Parkway Pharmacy
5100 Prairie Parkway, Suite 106, Cedar Falls
- University of Northern Iowa Student Health Center Pharmacy
1600 W 23rd Street, Cedar Falls
- Search by zip code to find other Controlled Substance Public Disposal Locations
Special Take-back Days
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency coordinates the National Take-Back Initiative to encourage the proper disposal of medications during nationally scheduled Take Back Day events in partnership with participating police departments.
Medical Sharps Disposal
Diabetic needles, syringes, and other medical sharps are very hazardous to garbage and recycling haulers and the workers at the landfill.
Some healthcare providers offer sharps containers for individuals to take home and return when filled. Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacy. Most do NOT accept medical sharps from businesses.
Residents of Black Hawk County can bring their old mercury thermometers to a Commission sponsored drop-off event. The mercury in older thermometers is considered a household hazardous material.
Digital thermometers contain a button battery which should be removed. Button batteries are considered a household hazardous material and should be properly recycled. The rest of the digital thermometer can be thrown away in your regular trash.
Pill Bottle Donation and Recycling
Empty medication bottles can be thrown away, but:
- Consider donating them to a charity, such as Matthew 25: Ministries, for reuse during the shipment of medical supplies overseas.
- Most bottles (and some lids) are considered recyclable. Check if they have the recycling symbol imprinted on them or contact your city regarding their policies.
- If the bottle contains any confidential information, consider peeling off the label (or blacking it out with a marker) prior to recycling or throwing it away.