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!/WhatcomCounty24/ WhatcomCounty2415.html#24.15.

Background materials and the text of the legislation as it was passed are available at

At the request of the Whatcom County Health Board, the Whatcom County Health Department is preparing legislation for the Board’s consideration that will create and fund a secure medicine return system. 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 proposed policy would require 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 would provide oversight and monitor the program.

 The proposed policy would: 

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

The proposed policy will be modeled on regulations passed by the local boards of health in King, Snohomish, Kitsap, and Pierce Counties.