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Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal Methods

Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal Methods

There are a variety of local, state, and federal laws that dictate the proper disposal of pharmaceutical waste. The guidelines have been designed to protect people and the environment from potentially harmful contaminants. Waste generated in pharmacies cover a gamut of types. The 2019 Environmental Protection Agency final rule (referred to as Subpart P) governing pharmaceutical hazardous waste was introduced for the purpose of maintaining the safety of human health and environmental preservation. Each state has established rules that comply with these guidelines. Healthcare Waste Management is knowledgeable on regulations for the states that we service and can address any questions regarding pharmaceutical waste disposal.

The role of pharmacies as a clinical provider has expanded over the last years to include the administering of vaccines. With the advent of COVID-19, this rule has become even more important as pharmacies are taking on the responsibilities of COVID-19 testing and vaccine procedures. While most state and federal laws have not changed with the pandemic, the quantity of pharmaceutical wastes has taken a dramatic shift with an increase in PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and sharps in healthcare locations.

All facilities that maintain pharmaceutical waste are required by their state and federal laws to comply with safe and effective disposal.

Steps to Take for Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal

Segregation of biohazardous waste and pharmaceutical waste is a first critical step to ensure that biohazardous waste is not placed in a location such as a landfill that poses a danger to people and the environment. Biohazardous waste should be placed in a red biohazard waste container.

Segregation of controlled substances so that they can be handled and disposed of according to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) regulations. A list of the DEA drug schedules can be found on their web page. In most situations, the rules set by the DEA require a facility to contract with a reverse distributor that is licensed to collect any unused controlled substances and transport them to the manufacturer or to a facility for destruction. There is extremely strict documentation required by the DEA and a healthcare waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management will handle all of the paperwork and supply certification to the generator as well as comply with the DEA requirements on the method that controlled substance waste must be dealt with.

Segregation of all sharps: Sharps are defined as any item that can pierce the skin that has the potential to transmit infection or disease to people, animal, or the environment. All sharps should be placed into FDA approved containers that are sturdy, leak-proof, and sturdy. All sharps containers should be picked up by a licensed medical waste disposal company and taken to a facility that will render them harmless.

Chemotherapy waste segregation is a priority to ensure public safety. Chemotherapy waste in the smallest amounts can be harmful and this type of waste should be placed in an FDA approved “yellow” container with the appropriate label. Used, expired or unused medications that are listed as chemotherapy waste should be separated and treated as hazardous chemical waste.

Medications that are listed as hazardous waste must be separated due to the chemicals that they contain. The EPA has a full list of hazardous pharmaceutical waste for the purposes of assisting those in the healthcare industry to comply with the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) as a safety measure for public protection. Hazardous waste should be placed in FDA approved black containers that are labeled for pick up by a licensed waste disposal company.

Remaining Nonhazardous waste: after the removal of all the above, everything else can be categorized as nonhazardous pharmaceutical waste and should be placed in FDA approved containers and labeled for pickup by a licensed waste disposal company.

Establish a contractual agreement with a licensed waste disposal service: To comply with the laws and requirements established via the EPA’s RCRA, the DEA, and the DOT (Department of Transportation), you will want to have a contract with a professional and licensed waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management.


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