Summary of Secure Medicine Return

King County’s Secure Medicine Return Regulations passed by the Board of Health in 2013 establishes an industry-funded product stewardship model to collect and safely dispose of unwanted household medicines from residents of the county.When the program is in operation, residents will be encouraged to bring leftover, expired, and unneeded medicines to secure drop-boxes located in pharmacies or law enforcement offices throughout the county. The program will be funded and operated by drug producers selling medicines for residential use in or into King County.

Secure collection system

Obligated drug producers selling medicines in or into King County must finance and operate a convenient system of secure medicine drop-off locations at pharmacies and law enforcement offices throughout the county. Collection sites will participate voluntarily, and if a medicine drop-off site is not available in a specific area , drug producers must arrange for periodic collection events or provide pre-paid mail-back envelopes. Additionally pre-paid mail-back envelopes can be requested for residents who are home bound or differentially-abled.

Handling of drugs must conform to all applicable federal and state laws and regulations, including those of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Washington State Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission.  Collected medicines will be destroyed at properly permitted high temperature incineration facilities.

Promotion and evaluation requirements

Drug producers are required to promote safe storage of medicines and how to use the medicine return system, and to conduct annual reporting, and periodic surveys. Drop-off site locations and other collection services will be promoted to the community through a toll-free telephone line, a website, and print materials.

Oversight and enforcement

King County will oversee the program to ensure compliance and safety, including review and approval of the stewardship plan(s) from drug producers, monitoring of plan operations, and review of annual reports. Drug producers who are not in compliance with the Regulations are subject to civil penalties.

Costs responsibilities

Obligated drug producers are responsible for costs of: collection supplies for drop-off sites, prepaid mailers, collection events, transportation and disposal, program promotion and evaluation, and other administrative costs. Drug producers cannot charge residents a fee for secure medicine return when they purchase medicines or return them. Costs to drug producers are estimated to be a few pennies per prescription. Collectors participate voluntarily and provide in-kind staff time at drop-off sites.

The Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County is responsible for costs of up to 400 secure drop boxes for the standard stewardship plan, and assisting with program promotion.


This overview provides general information. For specific requirements of the Secure Medicine Return Regulations see Board of Health  Chapter 11.50.

Updated April 10, 2016