Pharmaceuticals can enter the environment through disposal in toilets, sinks and general waste. In the UK, household medicines are correctly disposed of by returning them to a pharmacy. This study examined household patterns of medicine waste, storage and disposal practices via a cross-sectional survey with 663 UK adults. Multiple regression was used to explore the contribution of key variables on self-reported medicines disposal behaviour. Analysis demonstrated that age, information, awareness, probability, attitude and intention all predicted correct disposal behaviour. Results indicate that multiple factors influence different disposal destinations uniquely. Affect and age increase disposal in sink/toilet but reduce disposal in bin. Presence of children increase bin and sink/toilet disposal but decrease pharmacy returns. Awareness and received information on correct disposal reduce bin disposal and increase pharmacy returns. The results suggest people use different mental models for each destination with disposal in sink/toilets and bins considered quicker and safer in the presence of children or for those feeling anxious. It is important to understand the capability, opportunity and motivation people have to return medicines to the pharmacy in addition to raising awareness of correct medicine disposal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2455-2469
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Material Cycles and Waste Management
Issue number6
Early online date14 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Drugs
  • Environment
  • Household waste
  • Medicine disposal
  • Medicines waste
  • Unused medicines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Mechanics of Materials


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