County of Marin - News Releases - Safe Drug Disposal

For Immediate Release
October 04, 2017

Safe Medication Disposal System Implemented

Pharma companies fund successful drug take-back program

San Rafael, CA – Two years ago, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to create a county-wide system for the safe disposal of unused and unwanted medications. On October 3, the Supervisors heard a fresh report about the fruits of that effort as the newly established network of safe drug disposal sites across Marin.

Med-Project, the organization funded by pharmaceutical producers to administer the new drug take-back program, has established 22 sites throughout the county plus some mail-back locations.

Prior to this ordinance, the cost and administration of the County’s system for safe disposal of medications fell to Marin County Community Development Agency’s Environmental Health Services division and was  financed by local sanitary districts.

 “Because the industry is helping safely remove its products from our community, we can dedicate public resources and taxpayer dollars into other programs,” said Rebecca Ng, Deputy Director of Environmental Health Services. “Now the producers of medications are held responsible for their safe disposal,”

The need for safe disposal arose as part of the County's response and by request of Supervisor Katie Rice, to address the problem of prescription drug misuse and overdose. One in 10 of Marin’s high-school juniors reported taking painkillers recreationally without a prescription and about 25 percent of Marin adults need help for drug and alcohol misuse, according to Dr. Matt Willis, Marin’s Public Health Officer.

The effort was spearheaded by RxSafe Marin, a grassroots coalition, who brought together leaders from environmental health, law enforcement, health care and public health to draft the ordinance. Marin was the fifth of eight California counties to adopt a safe drug disposal ordinance; Sonoma County announced last week that it is planning one as well.

Removing unused and unwanted medications safely reduces the chance that they will be misused, health officials said.

“Prescription drug overdose remains the leading cause of accidental death in Marin County,” Willis said. “This helps ensure that prescription drugs are healing more than harming our residents. Our own medicine cabinets are fueling this problem. Too often the pills are coming from family and friends."  

Patty Garbarino, President of San Rafael-based Marin Sanitary Service, helped champion the effort as a means to protect the environment. “While it’s important to safely discard unwanted medications, flushing or throwing them away can contaminate water supplies,” Garbarino said. “Studies have shown the negative impact on fish and frog development. Medicines are biologically active, so it’s not surprising that common medicines found in waterways effect wildlife.”

In 2016, Marin residents disposed of 7,951 pounds of unused and unwanted medicines, and the supporters of the collection efforts would like to see that number grow. What can you do about it? Learn more about the safe drug disposal ordinance or find a local drop-off point on the Environmental Health Division website, or call 415-473-6907. If you’re willing to be an advocate for the program, consider contacting the RxSafe Marin organizers by emailing or calling 415-473-6731.


Rebecca Ng
Deputy Director of Environmental Health Services
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 236
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6907
Email: Rebecca Ng
Environmental Health Services