Unwanted Household Pharmaceuticals Takeback Program

osp rx location map

The Unwanted Pharmaceutical Takeback Program was launched as a pilot between TDEC and the Knoxville Police Department in 2011. The following year, Tennessee received funding to expand the program state-wide. TDEC, through the Office of Sustainable Practices, initially provided permanent prescription drug takeback boxes to law enforcement facilities. As the program grew, OSP began providing education regarding the safe disposal of collected items to citizens as well as law enforcement officials and permanent takeback boxes have been placed at hundreds of law enforcement facilities and dozens of pharmacies state-wide. In this partnership, OSP assists in identifying potential locations of permanent takeback boxes and delivering the boxes, an effort underwritten in part by funding from the Division of Solid Waste Management to purchase the permanent boxes and fiber containers for the incineration process. External partners include the U.S. Department of Justice - Drug Enforcement Agency, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation - Dangerous Drugs Taskforce, Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Tennessee Department of Military, and Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. The Unwanted Pharmaceutical Takeback Program ties into the Governor’s priorities of Health and Welfare and Public Safety while also supporting TDEC’s priorities of Public/Private Partnerships and Positive Environmental Outcomes.

Prescription drug takeback boxes provide a place where unused prescription drugs can be safely disposed. These permanent boxes prevent prescription and over-the-counter medications from getting into the hands of children and into the waterways. They make sure they are disposed of in a safe, environmentally-friendly manner. There have been many studies done on the effects of  pharmaceuticals on the ecosystems by US EPA as well as many colleges and universities. Flushing or throwing old expired medications could potentially find its way into our rivers, streams, and waterways through leeching into the groundwater as well as the wastewater treatment plants inability to fully treat the contaminated water. Medication collection events and programs are part of a nationwide effort to reduce the amount of pharmaceutical products being flushed or poured down drains and landfilled.

Items Accepted in the Program:

  • Liquid medications (in leak-proof containers)
  • Medicated ointment, lotions, or drops
  • Pills in any packaging (glass bottles, plastic containers, plastic bags, etc.)
  • Over-the-counter medications Liquid medications (in leak-proof containers)
  • Pet medications

Items Not Accepted in the Program:

  • Blood sugar equipment
  • Sharps/needles*
  • Illegal drugs & narcotics (although police will accept these items if placed in the container)
  • Thermometers*
  • IV bags
  • Bloody or infectious waste
  • Personal care products (shampoo, lotions, etc) safe At-Home Disposal

*These items can be disposed of safely at one of Solid Waste Management's Household Hazardous Waste Mobile Collection Sites.

Through the Unwanted Household Pharmaceuticals Takeback Program, our office has placed 358 collection bins throughout Tennessee - 282 at police stations, 10 at universities, and 100 at pharmacies.

Unwanted Household Pharmaceuticals Collection 2012-2022

Pharmaceuticals Collected through the Program
* Collection decreased due to COVID restrictions and sites being closed during the pandemic.


Kathy Glapa
Program Manager
Office of Sustainable Practices