Press Release – Critical need to reignite action on safe disposal of unwanted household medications

National, | May 15, 2023

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

TORONTO, May 15, 2023 – Today, 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 the 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent thought it didn’t cause any harm in a landfill (12 percent) or to go down the sink/toilet (9 percent).

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 medication 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.

“As a Pharmacist, I’m highly aware of the effects that improperly disposed of medications can have on public health and the environment, like infiltrating soil and drinking water, or being mistakenly consumed by children or pets,” says 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.”

“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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About HPSA
The Health Products Stewardship Association is a national not-for-profit organization representing over 140 brand owners and manufacturers responsible for the effective and safe collection and disposal of unused and expired medications and used medical sharps. On behalf of producers, HPSA administers seven collection programs in four provinces with the support of more than 6,000 community pharmacies acting as collection locations. HPSA’s mandate is also to educate consumers on the responsibility of safely disposing of unwanted medications and used medical sharps before they end up in the garbage, poured down sinks, flushed or misused by others. Since its inception, HPSA has collected more than 4,677,811 kg of pharmaceutical products and 3,141,828 kg of medical sharps.


Results are based on an online study collected by Leger on behalf of HPSA from February 10-26, 2023, with a sample of 1,941 adults aged 18 years and older from the provinces of BC, Manitoba, Ontario and PEI. Using data from the Canadian Census, results were weighted according to age, gender, province and sharps incidence to ensure the sample is fully representative. The margin of error with the total sample – which measures sample variability – is +/-2.2%.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Tenney Loweth

Director, Health