Looking to do your part in helping protect our waterways? Help keep our drains drug free!
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) encourages you to Think Inside the Box. Safe drug disposal means safe water. Gather your unused and expired medications and dispose of them in one of our permanent drug collection boxes. The 38-gallon Medsafe drug collection boxes are located near the main gate at three water reclamation plants (WRP) and in the lobby of the Main Office Building in Chicago. If a box is locked, please return during hours of operation. Do not leave medication outside the box.
Main Office Building, 100 E. Erie St., Chicago, Mon. – Fri. from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Calumet WRP, 400 E. 130th St., Chicago, 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
O’Brien WRP, 3500 Howard St., Skokie, 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Stickney WRP, 6001 W. Pershing Rd., Cicero, 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Or, to search for a Cook County location by zip code, visit the Cook County Sheriff's Office Drug Collection website.
Every day the average adult uses nine personal care products containing 126 unique compounds that could end up in our water. In addition, to traces of products like shampoo, toothpaste, perfume, sunscreens and cosmetics, minute amounts of prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs enter our water. The release of unused pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter and prescription drugs into the sanitary sewerage system has particularly harmful impact on our waterways. Whenever possible, it’s important to properly dispose of those products. Controlling what goes down the drain is the easiest and most effective way to protect the environment.
Pharmaceuticals entering the MWRD water reclamation plants (WRP) can navigate through the water treatment plants and enter Chicago Area Waterways, thus impacting the treatment plants, then fish and plant-life and our groundwater and waterways.
Working with the medical community, government agencies and the general public, the MWRD has sought ways to reduce the release of pharmaceutical waste into the environment and alert you at home not to flush unused medications down the drain, nor toss expired drugs in the garbage. Prevention today will lead to a safer tomorrow. Instead of tossing in the garbage or down the drain, you can visit household hazardous waste disposal events or participate in unused drug collection days.
There are many ways to reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals before they reach treatment facilities and/or the waterways. The first is to complete the course of treatment as prescribed by the physician. For over-the-counter products, monitor your supply and store them in one location at home to prevent the purchase of additional or extras. Once the pharmaceuticals are in your home, never pour them down the toilet or drain and never give or sell them to others. In addition to the Medsafe boxes the MWRD offers, the city of Chicago collects unwanted medicines 24 hour per day, seven days per week at all of its police facilities.
For more information about pharmaceuticals in the waterways or to find out more about proper disposal of medical and hazardous wastes, visit the U.S. Department of Justice drug collection website.
As part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, the MWRD has collected nearly 1,000 pounds of drugs in recent years. If you can’t participate in a Drug Take-Back Day or make it into the MWRD facilities, there are still several locations that are open year-round.
Visit the following sites for more information:
Cook County Sheriff’s Office Drug Collection Partnership
Cook County Sheriff's Office Drug Collection Sites by Zip Code
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Medication and Sharps Disposal
Tips for dropping off your medications
Always call before dropping off medications. You may want to:
Confirm the days and hours of operation
Ask if the program accepts controlled and non-controlled substances
Ask if the program accepts sharps
If planning to drop off medications at a site in a municipality other than where you live, ask if the program is available to non-residents
Ask if the program does NOT accept any kinds of medications (e.g., liquids, ointments, cancer treatment drugs, etc.)
Ask if there are any other requirements for dropping off medications
Unless otherwise specified, use original prescription containers and use permanent marker to mark out your name and personal information.
Take medications to the collection site ONLY during the drop-off site’s open hours of operation.
Please follow direction at the drop-off site carefully. Only give medications to personnel at the drop-off site.
These are NOT share or reuse opportunities. All medications received will be destroyed in an environmentally responsible manner.