The Big Red Barrel Project

Big Red Barrel

Addiction typically starts with prescription medication abuse, specifically heavy pain killers. After numerous deaths throughout Livingston County that were attributed to drug overdoses, Livingston County Community Alliance members (LCCA) members saw the need for a place where people could safely dispose of their unwanted medication. The Big Red Barrel effort has resulted in the secure and environmentally safe disposal of over 30 tons (or 60,000 pounds) of drugs. With permanent prescription drug collection units available for community use, it would decrease the likelihood of prescription drug abuse, heroin use, and maintain a healthy environment.

Medication Take Back Schedule

2024 Dates*

January 6th, 9am-1pm: Recycle Livingston, Howell

February 3rd, 9am-1pm: Recycle Livingston, Howell

February 3rd, 10am-1pm: Community Connect, Brighton

March 2nd, 9am-1pm: Recycle Livingston, Howell

April 6th, 9am-1pm: Recycle Livingston, Howell

May 4th, 9am-1pm: Recycle Livingston, Howell

June 1st, 9am-1pm: Recycle Livingston, Howell


July 13th, 9am-1pm: Recycle Livingston, Howell

August 3rd, 9am-1pm: Recycle Livingston, Howell

September 7th, 9am-1pm: Recycle Livingston, Howell

October 5th, 9am-1pm: Recycle Livingston, Howell

November 2nd, 9am-1pm: Recycle Livingston, Howell

December 5th, 9am-1pm: Recycle Livingston, Howell

-We will be collecting once per quarter at Genoa Township Hall-

**Dates subject to cancellation due to holidays or poor weather. Keep up-to-date via our Facebook page.**

How To Drop Off Medications

There is a “no questions asked” policy. This program is free and available for all people to use.

Pills, Capsules, and Tablets
  • Bring pills or vitamins(prescriptions from doctors or vets, over the counter medications) in their original containers and a resealable plastic baggie to any Big Red Barrel location.
  • Remove pills from their original container and place them into the baggie.
  • Seal the baggie and dispose of it into the barrel. *If you don't have a baggie, please dump the pills directly into the barrel.
Liquid Medication, Ointments, Lotions
  • Prior to disposal, absorb the liquid with a paper towel.
  • Place the soaked paper towel into a resealable plastic baggie. Make sure you have the empty bottle on-hand to ensure compliance with federal laws.
  • Dispose of the resealable plastic bag into the Big Red Barrel. It is your responsibility to dispose of the empty bottle somewhere other than the Big Red Barrel.
Needles and Syringes

We now accept syringes/needles in partnership with the Livingston County Drain Commissioner at local events and on the 1st Saturday of each month at Recycle Livingston, 9:00am-1:00pm.

Put syringes/needles in a sharps container or an empty detergent bottle. Duct tape the top of the detergent bottle to prevent from opening. For additional information about proper needle disposal, you can also visit the Livingston County website.

Law Enforcement Partnership

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) mandates that prescription drug take back programs be monitored by law enforcement at all times.  The members spoke with the Livingston County Sheriff’s department to gage law enforcement buy-in. The department said that if LCCA volunteers were willing to do the footwork, law enforcement would support the effort and be willing to handle pill collections and disposal. With assistance from community businesses, local law enforcement agencies, students, and other community members, LCCA members were able to design units that looked like big, red, barrels. The big red barrels were first placed in the Michigan State Police Department in Brighton, MI and at the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department in April, 2011 and have been a success ever since.


Currently, Big Red Barrels could be found in most police departments throughout Livingston County. Since the Big Red Barrel Project’s inception, over 30 TONS of medication have been collected in Livingston County alone. The barrels and the LCCA have received publicity from all local television stations and was recognized by the State of Michigan as a Hometown Health Hero. We have placed 79 barrels throughout the state of Michigan!

Continuing Plans

The Big Red Barrel program has become a model program for other communities interested in creating similar drug take back programs. The LCCA is looking forward to working with these communities. A Big Red Barrel Tool-Kit is available for groups to use as a guide for constructing their own drug collection units.  For more information about this tool-kit, contact Sarah McGeorge at 517-545-5944.