Keep kids and the environment safe by returning unused medications

Keeping unused prescription medications in your home puts kids at risk, but flushing or trashing them can harm the environment.

As part of National Drug Drop-off month, Islanders are reminded to help safeguard family members and the environment by returning unused prescription and over-the-counter medications to their local pharmacies any time of year.  

“If you look in your medicine cabinet, chances are you’ll find medications that are expired or that you no longer need. Don’t flush them. Don’t pour them down the sink. Don’t throw them in the garbage. Taking any of these actions can hurt our kids, pollute the water supply and harm wildlife. Instead, take them to any PEI pharmacy where they will be safely disposed of free of charge.”

- Brad Trivers, Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Change. 

According to Drug Free Kids Canada, up to 48 per cent of Canadian homes contain prescription and over the counter medications.  Additionally, one in seven Canadian teens have helped themselves to prescription drugs not prescribed to them. 

“If you have medications in your home that are outdated or that you no longer use, it’s time to get rid of them, especially if they include opioid pain medications or other controlled substances - which if misused could be harmful,” said James Aylward, Minister of Health and Wellness. “If you aren’t sure what to dispose of, bring all of your medications to your next primary care appointment, your doctor or nurse practitioner can review them to ensure everything is appropriate and up-to-date.” 

While August is National Drug Drop-Off month, all PEI pharmacies accept unused prescription and over-the-counter medications every month of the year. PEI is the only province in Canada with full participation among eligible retail pharmacies. 

“Keeping medications in the home that are no longer required increases the risk of medication errors and accidental poisonings,” said Erin MacKenzie, executive director of the PEI Pharmacists Association. “Those who take many medications can very easily mix-up prescription vials, potentially taking a drug that had been discontinued or replaced by another therapy, resulting in a dangerous drug combination. Further, children continue to experience harm through accidental ingestion of improperly stored or discarded medications.” 

Mackenzie added that pharmacists are committed to supporting healthy communities and have been offering safe medication return services in PEI for more than 15 years.

Media contacts:
Autumn Tremere
Department of Health and Wellness

Leanne Ritchie
Department of Environment, Water and Climate Change



Prior to taking unused medications to an Island pharmacy, residents should empty all pills into a bag or container, but keep liquids, creams and inhalers in their original packaging.  Personal identification should be removed from empty containers. 

Recycle glass containers as well as plastic packaging that is identified by symbols #1 through #5.  All other packaging is waste on PEI.

The Health Products Stewardship Association delivers its programs on PEI through the Island Medications Return Program and the Island Sharps Collection Program. 

In 2018, the Island Medications Return Program collected 4,115.8 kg of medications and the Island Sharps Collection Program collected 6,577.7 kg of medical sharps returned by the public for safe disposal.

For more information on PEI’s opioid crisis response, visit: Preventing Opioid-Related Overdoses.

General Inquiries

Department of Health and Wellness
4th Floor North, Shaw Building
105 Rochford Street
Charlottetown, PE   C1A 7N8

Phone: 902-368-6414
Fax: 902-368-4121