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Don't hesitate to contact me:

Office of Waste Management and Municipal Cleansing
(Amt für Abfallwirtschaft und Stadtreinigung)
Hardtstraße 2
69124 Heidelberg
Phone 06221 58-29999
Fax 06221 58-29900

Put old medicines in the residual waste bin

Protect our drinking water

The quality of the tap water in Germany is excellent. This is because the groundwater is so far relatively uncontaminated. However, every day several tonnes of old medicines enter the sewerage system – and the volume is going up, not down. The main reason why drugs enter drains is that members of the public do not always dispose of them correctly. 

According to a recent study by the German Energy and Water Industry Association (BdEW), many people throw unused or out-of-date medicines in the toilet or down the sink. Germany’s sewage treatment plants may be second to none, but even they cannot filter out all the many ingredients present in medicines. 

The amount of drugs entering the wastewater system is not currently thought to pose a hazard to health. But if that is to stay the case, the amount of contamination needs to be kept as low as possible. According to the BdEW study, only 15 percent of consumers consistently dispose of their old medicines correctly.

Until just a few years ago, it was possible to hand unused medicines back into pharmacies. Now only a small number of pharmacies will take back unused medicines. But old medicines should never be put in a toilet or sink. So what should you do with your unused pills, creams and ampoules?

How to dispose of old medicines correctly:

  • The right place to put old medicines is in your own household residual waste bin (Restmülltonne). Residual waste is thermally treated, which, from an environmental point of view, completely destroys the active ingredients in them. Old medicines should never be put in a toilet or sink.
  • Bottles or ampoules of medicine should be securely closed, then placed in your residual waste bin. 
  • Remove tablets from their cardboard, plastic or blister packs and put them in your residual waste bin. Recycle the packaging by placing it in your paper bin or yellow bin/yellow bag. 
  • It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor/pharmacist about what pack size is right for you. This will help to prevent your being left with out-of-date medicines, and will also help you to reduce your waste.