HomeKnowledge CentreExpired Medication: Safe & Compliant Disposal with Ace Waste

Expired Medication: Safe & Compliant Disposal with Ace Waste

3 min read

Have you ever wondered how dangerous expired medication really is? Most Australians may shrug off the expiration date as a mere guideline, only provided on packaging to achieve compliance and fill shelves. But this date isn’t just for show – it’s a vital legal requirement to protect our community and environment.

Proper disposal of expired medication prevents accidental consumption, misuse, or environmental harm. As a leading waste management company for QLD and VIC, Ace Waste offers compliant, cost-effective and safe collection and disposal services, simplifying the process to provide total peace of mind.

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What is expired medication?

All medicines have an expiration date, which indicates they are not as effective as they should be. For your own health and safety, you should not use them past the expiry date, whether prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC).

Every form of medicine, like patches, creams, or injections, expires eventually, but expiration dates vary by medicine type – for instance, dry tablets generally last longer than liquids. The law requires the expiration date on the packaging, usually under a label or on a bottle’s lid. If you can’t find it, you can ask your pharmacist for help.

Can you take expired medication?

It’s not recommended. Over time, medicines lose their effectiveness because the chemicals inside them break down. These chemical changes can sometimes make them risky or even dangerous to use, especially if you already have a serious health condition.

What medications become toxic after expiration?

While taking any medication after it expires is not recommended, certain medicines for severe health conditions require extra caution.

For example:

  • EpiPen for severe allergic reactions
  • Insulin for diabetes
  • Glyceryl trinitrate or GTN for angina and chest pain
  • Liquid antibiotics (amoxicillin for bacterial infections)

Eye drops also become more easily contaminated with bacteria as they reach their expiry date. As a general rule of thumb, never use eye drops after their expiry date, and to throw them out 30 days after you’ve opened them (even if they have not yet expired).

What is the safest way to store my medicine?

Different medicines have specific storage requirements to suit their chemical makeup and ensure they last until their expiry date. These instructions may involve keeping them below 25°C, in a dark place, or refrigerating them at around 4°C.

Securely store all medicines, including patches, creams, lotions, ointments, liquids, injections, and tablets, away from children’s access.

If managing multiple medications or dealing with complex health conditions, consider having your medicines reviewed every 6 to 12 months. Discuss initiating a Home Medicines Review with your GP or pharmacist to ensure optimal medication management.

Always consult your pharmacist for precise storage guidelines when purchasing prescription or OTC drugs from a pharmacy.

Where do you dispose of expired medications?

In Australia, it is illegal to get rid of expired medication down sinks, toilets, waterways or send them to landfill as they can cause severe harm to the environment and the general community.

Instead, all pharmaceutical waste must be appropriately destroyed and then sent for high-temperature incineration.

Pharmaceutical waste consists of expired items, those no longer needed, or recalled/unused products. It also involves materials produced during manufacturing and any leftover, spilled, or damaged pharmaceutical items.

For example:

  • Vials and containers (full, partially used, or empty)
  • Prescription medications (capsules or tablets)
  • Controlled drugs
  • Syringes/needles with pharmaceutical residues
  • Connecting tubing
  • General pharmaceutical products

For Households

Almost all community pharmacies in Australia will accept any unwanted medicines for disposal via the RUM project (Return Unwanted Medicines). The RUM Project, supported by the Commonwealth Government via the Department of Health, assists in gathering and disposing of unwanted medicines within the community.

It requires four simple steps:

  1. Check the expiry date of all medicines and separate unused or expired drugs from general household waste.
  2. Deliver the unwanted medicines to your nearest RUM collection at your local pharmacy – https://findapharmacy.com.au/.
  3. Pharmacy staff will put them into the designated RUM collection bin.
  4. The bins are transported to a high-temperature incineration facility for safe disposal.

For Businesses

Regardless of size and location, all commercial establishments and healthcare facilities must partner with a certified waste management company to guarantee safe and effective collection and disposal.

Ace Waste’s experienced coordinators can perform facility audits to identify ways to reduce waste, lower business expenses, and enhance your disposal procedures in line with state regulations. Moreover, our pharmaceutical waste bins and highly advanced incineration facilities set new standards in sustainability, ensuring your contribution to environmental preservation.

Compliant bins for your expired medication

In Australia, expired medication and other pharmaceutical waste is classified as ‘clinical waste’ or ‘medical waste’. Clinical waste bins are typically yellow, clearly labelled and leak-proof.

At Ace Waste, our Clinical Waste Bins come in various sizes to suit facilities of all scopes. They’re strong, secure, and trusted by numerous medical facilities and organisations in QLD and VIC.

Ace Waste Hospital waste bins and containers - Expired Medication


Trust us to handle your expired medication

Ace Waste specialises in the disposal of clinical and pharmaceutical waste. Our expertise spans various waste streams, and we utilise revolutionary incineration facilities to destroy expired medication safely and sustainably.

Industries we help

Ace Waste provides fully compliant waste services in QLD and VIC to the following industries:

Can’t see your industry? Call our friendly team and we will see how we can help. Otherwise, click below to organise a FREE quote now for expired medication disposal.