Don’t Flush Pharmaceuticals Down the Drain

An improperly disposed needle, syringe, or lancet can pose serious health hazards to the public, garbage haulers, and City landfill and wastewater employees. If flushed down the drain, pharmaceuticals can accumulate in water systems and contaminate water supplies, potentially affecting the natural hormones and development of wildlife. Because of this, the City of Sioux Falls offers two programs to allow residents to properly dispose of medical waste to protect residents and the environment.

The Sioux Falls Police Department offers a “Drug Take Back” program. This program allows citizens to drop off unused medications in a locked container in the lobby of the Law Enforcement Center, 320 West Fourth Street, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. By properly disposing of unused medications, the “Drug Take Back” program helps to keep our environment safe. No information or names are needed to utilize the program. In 2017 alone, this program took in more than 3,570 pounds of unwanted or unnecessary pharmaceuticals and has taken in more than 14,200 pounds in total since 2012.

If there are no proper disposal options, do not flush pharmaceuticals down the toilet. Waste water treatment facilities are designed to treat human waste and other easily degraded organic compounds. They cannot effectively remove pharmaceuticals and other complex, synthetic materials. Flushing leftover medications contributes to pollution and may result in a harmful environment for aquatic ecosystems as well as entrance into the food web. Instead, residents are advised to abide by the following guidelines to safely dispose of their medications:
1. Leave pharmaceuticals in the original container. Remove any personal information from the container but leave medication information clearly visible.
2. Modify the contents to discourage consumption.
a. Solid Medication—add a small amount of water to at least partially dissolve them and follow the instructions for liquids below.
b. Liquid Medication—add enough table salt, kitty litter, coffee grounds, charcoal, or nontoxic powdered spice, such as mustard seed, to make a pungent, unpleasant mixture; it should be solidified with no free liquid after mixing.
c. Blister Packs—wrap packages containing pills in multiple layers of opaque tape, like duct tape.
3. Tape the container shut with a strong adhesive, like duct tape or packaging tape. If there are no other outlets for disposing of pharmaceuticals, best practice is to place the container in with your regular household trash.
In addition, the City of Sioux Falls, in partnership with the Veterans Administration Medical Center, Lewis, Walgreens, and Hy-Vee Pharmacies offers the Home Healthcare Needle Disposal Program. Through the program, residents can pick up a free sharps container from participating pharmacies and return the container when it is full. The program helps prevent injuries by allowing residents to properly dispose of their home healthcare needles, lancets, and transdermal patches. The puncture resistant containers can be brought back to participating pharmacies. The Sioux Falls VA Health Care System provides the service of transporting the filled sharps containers from the pharmacies to the Sioux Falls VA Medical Center where the needles are then treated. In 2017, the program treated 11,875 pounds or roughly 1,600,000 needles.

“We are proud to offer a service that allows for free and safe disposal of home healthcare sharps and want to encourage residents to use the service,” says Jessica Sexe, Sustainability Coordinator. “Improperly disposed of sharps can pose serious health risks to the public, sanitation workers, City landfill employees, and wastewater employees, so it’s important residents know they can use this free disposal service.”

Residents in the five-county area (Lake, Lincoln, McCook, Minnehaha, and Turner Counties) can pick up a free sharps container at any of these participating pharmacy locations:

Hy-Vee Pharmacies
o All Sioux Falls Hy-Vee locations.
Lewis Drug Pharmacies
o All Sioux Falls Lewis Drug locations, including Sanford Hospital (Medical Building 2) and Sanford Clinic (69th Street and Minnesota Avenue).
o Lewis Drug stores in Brandon, Canton, Dell Rapids, Lennox, Madison, Tea, and Viborg.
Walgreens Pharmacies
o All Sioux Falls Walgreens locations.

For more information about the program, visit

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