Not in household waste – How to dispose of old medicines – Knowledge


Expired tablets, ointments or effervescent tablets cannot be recycled or donated. Where to put it?

“Certainly not in the household waste,” says Enea Martinelli, chief pharmacist at the Interlaken hospital. “People with addiction problems rummage through garbage bags from time to time,” he knows from experience. In addition, medicines, especially if they get wet, can get into the ground or the air. Disposal via the toilet or washbasin also pollutes the environment.

Back to where you got them

Basically, you should bring medicines back to where you bought them. “What the family doctor gives you brings back to the family doctor.” The same applies to medicines from the pharmacy or drugstore.


Unused or expired medication: It is best to return it to where you got it.

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Disposal is free in some cantons, while others charge a fee. A little tip: Try another pharmacy or drugstore where you didn’t get the medication. There are pharmacies that, out of goodwill, take everything back for disposal free of charge.

Also return herbal medicines

Herbal medicines must not be disposed of with household waste or the toilet. “These can be quite potent,” says Martinelli. Here, too, the rule applies: take it back to where you got it. The pharmacist recommends bringing back vitamin tablets yourself. The only exception are medicinal teas: These may be disposed of with household waste.

Keep the original packaging

It is important that tablets, droplets, suppositories, effervescent tablets or ointments are always returned in their original packaging. Of course it is tempting to dispose of the box yourself in the waste paper. “Only the original packaging guarantees that the corresponding ingredients can be disposed of properly,” emphasizes Martinelli.

During disposal, paper, plastic and aluminum are then separated and the medicines are incinerated according to their active ingredients. The temperature varies depending on the ingredient. For example, cytostatics used to treat cancer are burned in a special oven heated to 2,000 degrees Celsius.

Take back for reuse?

Anyone who has expensive medicines at home and no longer needs them would probably be happy if someone else benefited from them. “Unfortunately, that’s not possible,” says Martinelli. Neither pharmacies nor medical practices are allowed to take back medicines to pass them on or resell them.

The point is that pharmacies have to document professional storage until dispensing. The chain of custody and storage is not guaranteed at home.

“It’s about the fact that pharmacies have to document professional storage until delivery. The chain of custody and storage is not guaranteed at home.ยป If a drug is stored with a patient, one does not know whether the preparation was exposed to moisture or excessive temperatures in the bathroom, for example. This could limit quality and effectiveness.

Don’t donate medication

Medicines that have been used cannot be donated to people in war or crisis zones. Again, storage and storage are an issue. In addition: “The sorting out would be far too expensive,” says Martinelli.

Not to forget: In these countries nobody understands the Swiss package insert in German, French or Italian. For Martinelli, one thing is clear: Donations of money for medicines are more effective and provide more sustainable and targeted help directly on site.

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