When vitamins and supplements expire, it can be tempting to simply toss them in the garbage.
However, vitamins must be disposed of properly.
The best way to do this is by taking them to drug take-back sites or to the store where you bought them.
Another option is checking if they are safe to go down the toilet (the FDA has a list for this purpose).
If you decide to throw them in the garbage, mix them with undesirable substances and use Ziploc bags.
Below, we’re going to go over why and how to dispose of vitamins properly.
How to Dispose of Vitamins Properly
If you find expired vitamins or supplements sitting in your medicine cabinet, you should take steps to throw them out responsibly.
With a little bit of research, you can figure out how to safely dispose of a given drug. Some vitamins require more careful treatment than others.
There are several different ways to dispose of drugs safely depending on the vitamin, supplement, or medication in question.
Take Advantage of Drug Take-Back Sites
The best way to dispose of vitamins is through a DEA drug take-back program. The DEA ensures that all drugs left at take-back locations get disposed of quickly and safely.
There are permanent drug collection sites located throughout the US where you can bring any expired vitamin or supplement with no questions asked.
Most locations will even accept controlled substances.
Official take-back sites can be located anywhere, including clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, and law enforcement facilities. Some may even be located in private retail buildings.
While some take-back programs offer on-site dropoff boxes, many also offer alternative delivery options. You may be able to participate in a secure, low-contact mail-back program.
In addition to federally funded take-back programs, many counties, states, and even private businesses are also starting to offer eco-friendly drug dropoff programs.
When in doubt, you can always look up the next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Since 2010, the DEA has held this periodic event at locations nationwide.
During Drug Take-Back Day, you can find safe disposal sites in your local community where you can take expired vitamins, supplements, and medications.
If you can’t find a DEA event taking place near you, check with local law enforcement. You may be able to find community take-back events at your local precinct or fire station.
Return Vitamins to the Store
If you can’t find a drug take-back site near you, your local store may be able to help.
If you go back to the shop or pharmacy where you purchased your vitamins, the employees may be able to dispose of old drugs for you.
Even if your pharmacist can’t help you, they may be able to point you in the right direction. You can ask about local take-back events or other nearby locations that offer safe drug disposal.
Check the FDA Flush List
When there is no other alternative available, flushing old vitamins and supplements may be the safest route for disposal.
Before flushing any drugs, it’s important to do your research. You can check the FDA Flush List to see what vitamins are officially approved to go down the toilet.
Most items on the flush list are there due to their toxic or addictive nature.
It’s safer to flush these pills immediately than risk children, pets, or other adults from accidentally ingesting them.
If you need to get rid of expired vitamins or supplements and find that it’s on the Flush List, you can legally dispose of it down the toilet.
It’s important to do so as soon as possible to prevent accidental ingestion.
To flush pills, empty the container into the toilet completely, making sure to remove any leftover residue.
You may want to flush multiple times to ensure that no dangerous chemicals get left in the bowl. Otherwise, a curious pet may end up drinking the water and getting sick.
If you’re having trouble flushing expired pills, it may help to add a safe solid such as toilet paper to the bowl. Doing this can help to drag down and remove any stubborn pills.
Throw in Trash (Following Proper Disposal Technique)
If all else fails, you can throw out vitamins in the trash as long as you use proper disposal techniques.
Loose vitamins and supplements in the trash might look like candy to a small child or treats to an unsuspecting dog. Stronger prescriptions may also attract abuse from adults.
You should always mix vitamins, supplements, and other drugs with an undesirable substance such as kitty litter or coffee grounds before throwing them in the trash cans.
As an added precaution, you may even want to grind pills up ahead of time.
If an animal roots through your garbage, it will be turned off by the smell of substances such as coffee grounds and is less likely to consume vitamins in the mix.
Any mixture containing old vitamins or supplements should have a tight seal in a container with a lid or a ziplock bag. Place the container in your garbage bag and knot the top tightly.
If possible, it’s best to wait until trash day to take out garbage bags containing old vitamins and supplements.
Leaving trash bags out increases the risk of a person or animal going through the contents. In some cases, you may even be liable if your trash causes harm to pets or people.
The Dangers of Improper Vitamin Disposal
Many of us have expired vitamins and supplements sitting in our medicine cabinets. In fact, as many as one-third of Americans haven’t gone through their medications in at least a year.
It’s important to get rid of old vitamins and supplements to ensure that nobody in your household accidentally ingests expired pills.
After passing their expiration date, many vitamins lose their potency and efficacy. Some may even be susceptible to bacterial growth and could cause an infection if consumed.
When tossing expired pills, it’s important to ensure that you do so safely.
Even vitamins and supplements with all-natural ingredients may not be safe to flush or throw in the garbage.
Read on to learn more about reasons to be careful when throwing out vitamins and the risk of improper drug disposal.
Plenty of people get rid of old vitamins by throwing them in the trash, flushing them down the toilet, or tossing them down the drain.
While these practices may all seem like logical ways to get rid of expired drugs, they can end up causing irreparable damage to the local environment.
Chemicals in certain drugs can dissolve into the local water supply, threatening ecosystems in lakes, rivers, and nearby oceans.
Byproducts from vitamins, supplements, and other medications can also make their way from waterways into the soil, affecting plant growth.
In some cases, dangerous compounds may even make their way into crops and eventually into the local food supply chain.
Some of the top culprits causing environmental damage include steroids, antibiotics, and antidepressants. However, vitamins and supplements also pose a risk to local ecosystems.
Harm to Local Families and Wildlife
When you throw old vitamins in the garbage, it’s easy for curious wildlife, pets, or even children to get their hands on it.
If children or animals ingest expired pills, especially in doses exceeding the recommended amount, it can cause severe illness.
In some cases, vitamins and supplements that end up in the wrong hands may lead to a fatal overdose.
Improperly disposed vitamins sitting in garbage cans may also contribute to chemical runoff in the water supply.
When it rains, water trickling through the garbage may take up poorly contained or loose vitamins.
Identifying Expired Vitamins
Over time, the potency will diminish in most vitamins and supplements. While it’s not a strict rule from the FDA, most manufacturers include information on the label that can help you to figure out whether or not to dispose of a given bottle.
The Expiration Date
A clear expiration date is the easiest way to know when it’s time to throw out your vitamins. Some manufacturers will lab test products to figure out at what point they begin to lose stability.
Keep in mind that the expiration date typically refers to an unopened bottle. In some cases, opened vitamins will degrade faster than a sealed pack.
The “Best Before” Date
Unlike an expiration date, a “Use By” or “Best Before” date offers more of a loose guideline of when your product begins to lose efficacy.
Vitamins and supplements will be safe to consume following their Best Before date. However, they will begin to lose potency over time.
It’s best to dispose of vitamins a few months after their Use By date passes, but they may be good for up to two years.
The Manufacturing Date
The Date of Manufacture on a vitamin label tells you when a specific batch was produced. You can use the manufacturing date to figure out when it’s time to dispose of old vitamins.
As a general rule of thumb, you should throw your vitamins out around two years after the Date of Manufacture.
Disposing of old and expired vitamins isn’t as simple as dumping them in the trash.
Chemicals found in vitamins, supplements, and other medications can pose a risk to your local community and the environment.
You should always take steps to dispose of expired vitamins safely and responsibly. When in doubt, check the label or ask your doctor to discover the safest way to throw out vitamins and supplements.
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