Many Americans take vitamins and supplements to maintain good health, feel more energetic, and improve their appearance. Like medications, dietary supplements begin to degrade in potency after the expiration date on the label. The shelf life varies widely and will depend on the ingredients and formulation of the product. Liquids and products requiring refrigeration may only last a few months.
Taking expired supplements is not recommended. Though the shelf life may be longer than the manufacturer’s “use by” date, the safety and quality cannot be guaranteed after that date. The FDA does not require expiration dates, but many manufacturers voluntarily include an expiration date, date of manufacturing, “use by,” or “best before” date.
How to Dispose of Old Vitamins
When your supplements have expired, you will need to dispose of them safely. Though many supplements are harmless, they can pose a serious risk to children and animals that may ingest them. For example, if a child finds and eats iron supplements they may get iron poisoning. Iron poisoning causes many serious effects, including severe vomiting, dehydration, shock, and even death.
Here are some safe disposal methods for vitamins and supplements:
Take-Back Programs & Events
Many pharmacies have take-back programs to collect expired medications and supplements. Communities may also host take-back events to preserve neighborhood safety. Check with your local pharmacy or events center to learn more about what is accepted and when these programs occur.
Trash disposal isn’t ideal, as supplements can contaminate the soil and water causing issues for wildlife and human health. However, if there are no other options available, you can take the following steps to make trash disposal safer:
- Remove your vitamins and supplements from their original containers.
- Mix your supplements with unappetizing, dry matter like dirt, coffee grounds, or cat litter. This will help prevent the consumption of your supplements.
- Enclose the mixture in a leak-proof container and throw the container into the trash.
- Recycle the empty supplement bottles.
Medication Drop-Off Services
Medical Waste Pros offers secure medication drop-off sites to dispose of pharmaceuticals, including vitamins and supplements. Use our directory to find one of our many drop-off points. You can quickly and easily deposit your supplements into the kiosk and rest easy knowing your supplements will be discarded in an environmentally friendly and safety-compliant manner.
Why Can’t I Flush My Old Vitamins?
The FDA and EPA both advise against flushing old vitamins. Supplements can contaminate sewage systems and pollute our waterways. Only medications on the FDA’s flush list should ever be put down the drain. The list includes dangerous medications that have high abuse potential or can result in death if inappropriately taken. No vitamins or supplements are included on the flush list.
Safely Dispose of Old Vitamins with Medical Waste Pros
Medical Waste Pros partners with safe and regulated medication disposal companies. Our partners provide secure drop-off locations to collect unused or expired medications, vitamins, and supplements. Give us a call at (888) 755-6370, fill out the form, or use our directory to find a drop-off location near you.