New Year Brings New Opportunities for Safe Medicine Disposal

Safe medicine disposal program logoThanks to newly implemented statewide legislation, Sonoma and Mendocino County residents now have more convenient opportunities to safely dispose of their expired or unwanted medications and home‑generated sharps waste.

California Senate Bill 212, passed in 2018, laid the groundwork for pharmaceutical manufacturers and producers to pay for the collection, transportation, and disposal of their products at the end of their lifecycle. CalRecycle is the State agency that manages oversight of this new industry-run statewide stewardship program that provides safe and convenient disposal options for pharmaceutical and home-generated sharps waste at no cost to the consumer.

Starting in 2023, you should see more and more medication collection bins popping up at your local pharmacies. Large chain stores like CVS, Safeway, Lucky Pharmacy, and Rite Aid are participating in this new stewardship program along with local pharmacies to provide safe drop-off of medications at the same place you pick up prescriptions. There will also be more mail-back options available. Some local law enforcement agencies also provide collection bins for residents to drop-off medications.

Where and How Do I Dispose of Pharmaceuticals?

For now, home-generated sharps and needles will continue to be collected as Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) at local HHW collection facilities and collection events. Russian River Watershed Association (RRWA) will monitor the status of sharps stewardship programs as they come online during this year. California residents can order free sharps mail-back kits with containers through the participating stewardship organizations.

How Do I Dispose of Home-Generated Sharps Waste?

Before the passage of Senate Bill 212, the financial cost of managing the Safe Medicine Disposal Program had fallen on local Sonoma and Mendocino County jurisdictions, including local jurisdictions through RRWA. By shifting the responsibility for collection and disposal from public entities to private stewardship groups, California’s Pharmaceutical and Sharps Waste Stewardship Law saves taxpayer money and local resources. The Stewardship Law also promotes the circular economy, by mandating manufacturers consider end-of-life disposal in the design and management of their products.

CalRecycle encourages residents to submit any issues or concerns with collection sites and types of medications and sharps accepted. To report an issue, submit a survey at the CalRecycle program homepage at or email

This article was authored by Zero Waste Sonoma and County of Sonoma Department of Health Services, Environmental Health on behalf of RRWA. RRWA is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.