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Safe Medicine Disposal Ordinance

General information

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the San Mateo County Safe Medicine Disposal Ordinance that went into effect on May 28, 2015. Using an extended producer responsibility model, the ordinance requires medicine producers who manufacture prescription or over-the-counter medicines offered for sale in San Mateo County to design, develop and fund a medicine collection and disposal program for unwanted medicine from residential sources, while following certain guidelines established by the local ordinance. The County will provide oversight to ensure that the program meets the needs of the community and operates in a manner consistent with the principles of the ordinance.

The extended producer responsibility model is based on the concept that the manufacturer of a product takes responsibility for that product throughout its life, including disposal. Under the program, medicine manufacturers will fully fund an expanded medicine collection program, making it easier for the public to choose the safest way to dispose of their unwanted medicines. The goals of the ordinance are to increase public safety and reduce water pollution.

Click here for an Ordinance Implementation Timeline summary.


In 2006, San Mateo County started its first-in-the-nation medicine collection program at law enforcement agencies. Since that time, 143,000 pounds of medicine have been safely disposed through 14 medicine collection sites. Still, just 36% of nearly 2,000 residents surveyed said they took their unwanted medicines to these collection sites. While 14 sites for 750,000 people spread across 448 square miles is a good start, the goal of the ordinance is to make the program even more convenient.

Which medicines are included in San Mateo County’s Safe Medicine Disposal Ordinance?

San Mateo’s Ordinance includes medicines which meet the definition of a “covered drug.” A “covered drug” means a drug sold in any form and used by County residents and their pets, including prescription, nonprescription, brand name and generic drugs.

Exceptions to this include:

  • Vitamins or supplements
  • Herbal-based remedies and homeopathic drugs, products, or remedies
  • Cosmetics, shampoos, sunscreens, toothpaste, lip balm, antiperspirants, or other personal care products that are regulated as both cosmetics and nonprescription drugs under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act
  • Drugs for which producers already provide a take-back program under federal FDA rules
  • Medical devices or their component parts or accessories, not including a covered drug

Safe Medicine Disposal Ordinance Participants

Program participants are defined as follows:

Drug Wholesaler: a person who buys drugs for resale and distribution to corporations, individuals, or entities other than consumers.

Retail Pharmacy: a pharmacy licensed by the state of California Board of Pharmacy for retail sale and dispensing of drugs.

Repackager: a person who owns or operates an establishment that repacks and relabels a product or package for further sale, or for distribution without a further transaction.

Producer: a Manufacturer engaged in the manufacture of a covered drug sold in the County, including a brand-name or generic drug. 

Your business may have more than one role under the ordinance. Review this presentation for more information about the ordinance and your role. And for a full list of the terms defined in the ordinance, see the “Additional Resources” section.

Ordinance Requirements for Producers 

Ordinance Requirements for Retailers                                          

All pharmacies are encouraged to volunteer to participate as a collection site for unwanted and unused medicines from San Mateo County homes. The Ordinance requires that any retail pharmacy who wishes to volunteer cannot be denied by the Producers. If you are interested in being a collection location, contact MED-Project at:

Dr. Victoria Travis, PharmD, MBA
National Program Director
(844) 6-PROJECT

Additional Information for Interested Retailers

Ordinance Requirements for Wholesalers

Section 4.116.100 of the Ordinance requires that each drug wholesaler that sells any covered drug in the County shall provide a list of the producers of those covered drugs to the Director of Environmental Health. 

If you meet the definition of a drug wholesaler and sell covered drugs in San Mateo County, use the Wholesaler Submittal Template to list the producers of covered drugs that you sell or distribute in or into the County. Please submit your list in Microsoft Excel, .xlsx or .xls format.

Wholesalers are required to update and resubmit their list of producers annually by January 15. Wholesalers have no other obligations under the ordinance.

Submit your list of producers by email to

Safe Medicine Disposal Wholesaler Exemption Form

If you are a drug wholesaler, but do not currently sell or distribute any covered drugs in or into the County, complete this form.
Note: If you have filled out the form in the past two years, you do not need to submit another form.

Additional Resources