May 12, 2020

Returning Unwanted Medicines – A COVID-19 Update

The RUM bin service will continue to operate within current Australian Government guidelines with bins delivered by wholesalers to community pharmacies as they previously have. 

From the end of March, pharmacies have started to see a new RUM bin arrive at their pharmacy. The new one-way RUM bin has been designed to encourage the recycling of packaging by the consumer/patient. It has been designed to safely dispose of the returned medicines only

The bin has a lid that will need to be attached before use in the community pharmacy. Once filled a red seal is to be applied before the full RUM bin can be returned to the pharmacy’s wholesaler. Each RUM bin will have directions for assembly in the pail when delivered to the pharmacy.

Accredited pharmacists conducting home medicine reviews and collecting unwanted medicines during a home visit should wear gloves when handling medicines with hand hygiene pre and post. 

The pharmacist conducting the interview should encourage the patient to return their unwanted medicines whilst ensuring that it is safe to do so (i.e. that they have no COVID-19 like symptoms). 

Community pharmacies should handle returned medicines in a similar safe manner. The use of gloves when handling returned medicine would be appropriate.

During the HMR interview, pharmacists should emphasise to patients that the outer packaging is to be removed and disposed of in their own recycled waste bin for usual household collection, prior to collection for return to a community pharmacy.

Accredited pharmacists conducting HMRs can obtain RUM Project approved plastic bags (‘HMR bag’) direct from The RUM Project. The HMR bags can be ordered by email or telephone. Email is or phone is 1300 650 835. There will be no charge for the delivery of the bags to the accredited pharmacist.

Aged Care Facilities 

The RUM Project Manager Toni Riley reports that she has been receiving enquiries from community pharmacies providing services to Aged Care Facilities regarding collection of unwanted medicines.

Whilst facilities are in lockdown, she has been suggesting that the Aged Care provider needs to discuss the safe disposal of their unwanted medicines with their current clinical waste provider. In most instances these companies will be able to handle the unwanted medicines as well, noting that an additional fee may be incurred.


The Return of Unwanted Medicines Project is a free service that offers a way to dispose of unwanted or expired medicines safely and conveniently at your local community pharmacy. Find out more about the service here.

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