UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, June 2018

Safe Medicine Disposal: As Easy as Putting a Letter in the Mailbox

Take a look in your medicine cabinet. Chances are you will find leftover pain medications from a past surgery or some prescriptions that have expired. Up until now, safe medication disposal has been an ongoing challenge because there was no easy way to return drugs. UCSF has taken a step to solve this problem.

Thanks to the partnerships between the UCSF School of Pharmacy, UCSF Health’s Department of Pharmaceutical Services and Walgreens, Lisa Kroon, Chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, is pleased to share that the Walgreens at UCSF Parnassus Pharmacy (500 Parnassus J Level) now has a Safe Medication Disposal Kiosk.

Individuals can safely and conveniently dispose of their unwanted, unused, or expired medications, such as over-the-counter and prescription medications, including controlled substances Schedule II through V (see the entire accepted and not accepted list of medications below). Simply bring your medications to the Parnassus Walgreens, or other participating Walgreens with a safe disposal kiosk, and deposit them into the kiosk, much like dropping a letter into a mailbox.

What is Accepted at Kiosks

Dosage forms such as tablets, capsules, liquids, ointments, patches, and inhalers are all accepted. Products need to fit into the kiosk opening. Needles/syringes are not accepted.


  • Unwanted prescription drugs (non-controlled and Schedules II through V) in common dosage forms, such as tablets, capsules, liquids, ointments, patches, inhalers, and aerosol cans.
  • Over-the-counter medications in common dosage forms, such as tablets, capsules, liquids, ointments, patches, inhalers, and aerosol cans.
  • Authorized products do not have to be removed from the prescription vial/bottle, as long as the container fits within the opening.

Not Accepted:

  • Hypodermic needles
  • Thermometers
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Illicit drugs

Other Walgreens Kiosk Locations in San Francisco

Other Walgreens Pharmacies in San Francisco with a safe medication disposal kiosk are (during pharmacy hours):

  • 1189 Potrero Avenue SF, CA 94110
  • 275 Sacramento Street SF, CA 94105
  • 3201 Divisadero Street SF, CA 94123
  • 498 Castro Street SF, CA 94114
  • 5280 Geary Boulevard SF, CA 94118

Don’t Flush Meds: The Fish will Thank You

You might think it is OK to flush unwanted prescriptions down the toilet or to toss them into the trash. “We really don’t want people flushing medicines down the toilet because they get into the water system and can affect our marine life,” stressed Kroon.

The cumulative impact of improper disposal is a real threat to our nation’s water supply and the environment. Tiny doses of drugs have been found in wastewater and in fish, frogs, even lobster, because wastewater treatment plants mostly reduce solids and bacteria, but do not effectively remove drugs. According to the US Geologic Survey, “Fish health may be affected by pharmaceuticals in treated wastewater released into streams and other water bodies.”

Gail Lee, UCSF’s Director of Sustainability, added, “Imagine the impact on fish swimming in water contaminated with anti-depressants and contraceptives. Research has shown that feeding and reproductive activities of fish have been altered even with exposure at very low levels.”

So protect our water supplies and environment by taking a moment to safely dispose of your unwanted prescriptions. Bring them to the Parnassus Walgreens or other convenient location. (Visit the SF Environment website to find other San Francisco locations.)

Learn More

FDA, Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know

Safe Medication Disposal in San Francisco

DEA website for information local DEA registered collectors

National Drug Take Back Day