Canadian Manufacturing

HPSA takes action on safe disposal of unwanted household medications in Canada

by CM staff   

Human Resources Public Sector British Columbia Canada Health Products Stewardship Association household medications Manitoba Ontario

Research indicates an opportunity to increase safe practices for the protection of households, communities, and the environment.

The Health Products Stewardship Association (HPSA), a national not-for-profit that operates return programs for unwanted medications and used medical sharps across British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, is sharing concerning results from research measuring consumer understanding of the proper disposal of medications.

Overall, results showed that safe disposal of medical products has decreased, but Canadians are not significantly held back by a lack of willingness or lack of convenience.

Ninety-eight per cent of Canadian households have medications on hand including prescriptions, over-the-counter medication, lotions/ointments, and natural health products, but alarmingly, many lack knowledge on where or how to safely dispose of them. Thirty-three per cent said they didn’t know their medicines should or could be safely collected.

Results also showed that many Canadians aren’t aware of the harmful effects of incorrect disposal methods. Among those who reported disposing incorrectly, a total of 21 per cent thought it doesn’t cause any harm in a landfill (12 per cent) or to go down the sink/toilet (nine per cent).


“As a Pharmacist I’m highly aware of the effects that improperly disposed medications can have on public health and the environment, like infiltrating soil and drinking water, or being mistakenly consumed by children or pets,” said Tarek Hussein, clinical pharmacist and owner and manager of Weller Pharmacy in Kingston, Ontario. “That’s why we take pride in offering seamless take-back programs on behalf of HPSA at our pharmacy.”

Comparative research last conducted in 2021 provides an understanding of the “pandemic effect” on Canadians’ habits around safe disposal. Overall, there are fewer Canadians practicing safe medications disposal now than pre-pandemic, mirroring similar downward trends seen in other important health measures like routine immunizations, dental care, and even certain types of cancer screenings. Now, with public safety measures like isolation requirements pulled back, HPSA is calling on Canadians to reignite critically important habits around safe disposal.

“We’re looking forward to seeing big improvements in Canadians taking action around medication disposal now that people can feel more comfortable placing attention on broader health-related issues,” says Terri Drover, Director General at HPSA. “As people clean out their medicine cabinets in spring cleaning, it’s a great time to visit one of the 6,036 participating pharmacies across Canada that provide easy access to safe disposal of expired or unwanted medications.”

To make a safe and easy drop-off, Canadians should empty all dry medication such as pills and tablets into a clear bag, keeping all liquids, creams and inhalers in their original vials, and remove all personal identification. Then, return to their local participating pharmacy using HPSA’s Collection Location Finder.


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