Secure Medicine Return

An ordinance to adopt a secure medicine return regulation was approved by the Whatcom County Council, acting as the Health Board, on December 5, 2017. 

The new section of Whatcom County Code, Chapter 24.15 Secure Medicine Return, can be found at https://www.codepublishing.com/WA/WhatcomCounty/#!/WhatcomCounty24/ WhatcomCounty2415.html#24.15.

Background materials and the text of the legislation as it was passed are available at http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/DocumentCenter/View/31822.


Secure medicine return programs are a way for consumers to dispose of leftover, unwanted or unused medicines in a safe and environmentally-sound way. These programs are an important part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent prescription drug abuse and opioid addiction.

Secure Medicine Return diagram

Currently, there are several places in Bellingham and Ferndale where Whatcom County residents can drop off their unwanted medicine for safe disposal. However, these locations are not convenient for many people, do not accept all types of medicine, and lack sufficient and sustainable financial resources.

The new Whatcom County policy requires pharmaceutical producers – the companies that manufacture prescription and over-the-counter medicines – to provide the secure medicine return system at no cost to community members. The health department will provide oversight and monitor the program.

 The new regulation: 

  • Expands secure medicine disposal options for Whatcom County residents to reduce risks of poisonings and drug misuse and reduce pollution from waste medicines.
  • Improves convenience for residents by expanding the number of locations where people can drop off their unused medicines.
  • Ensures financial sustainability through a pharmaceutical manufacturer-financed system.