Pharmaceuticals improve quality of life and save the lives of millions of people every year, unfortunately this does not come without a cost. How to properly dispose of different types of pharmaceutical waste has been a problem for many years. Some of the biggest offenders that cause the most problems with pharmaceutical waste include medications that are produced in large quantities and drugs which are highly potent, even at low concentrations.
Hazardous pharmaceutical waste is considered to be about 5% to 10% of all pharmaceuticals. Disposing of hazardous pharmaceutical waste is governed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The federal agencies that regulate pharmaceutical manufacture, collection, discharge and disposal are the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, the Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA, and the Department of Transportation, DOT, which regulates how medication waste should be transported to waste facilities.
Proper disposal of all pharmaceutical waste including hazardous medication waste is a concern for all types of healthcare and medical facilities including hospitals, long-term care facilities, medical clinics, veterinary clinics, pharmacies, and any other users of pharmaceuticals. Expired and unused medications are a big part of pharmaceutical waste but not the only concern as toxic substances can also be found in bags with trace quantities of pharmaceuticals, vials, packaging, and spilled liquids.
Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste Determination
Hazardous pharmaceutical waste is governed by strict regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) by the EPA. Some of the biggest challenges with disposing of hazardous pharmaceutical waste come with first determining if the waste is hazardous. This can be accomplished by answering four questions:
1) Is it a solid waste? All pharmaceutical waste should be evaluated to determine if it is a solid waste, and then to determine whether or not it is hazardous. Most types of solid waste are not hazardous although that determination should be carefully made.
2) Does the waste qualify for an exemption? Medication products are rarely recycled and therefore would not qualify for exemptions. This is typically not applicable to pharmaceutical waste.
3) Is it a characteristic waste? The EPA categorizes hazardous waste by four characteristics:
- Ignitability or flammable
- Corrosivity or something that can decompose or rust
- Reactivity or something that is explosive
- Toxicity or something that is poisonous
4) Is it a listed waste? RCRA provides four lists related to pharmaceutical waste, manufacturing processes and unused chemicals which set them apart from other hazardous waste. The four lists are:
- F – hazardous waste from nonspecific sources such as general solvents or metal finishing
- K – includes waste which is source specific such as manufacturing pesticides or refining petroleum
- P – both P and U lists govern unused chemicals, pesticides and pharmaceuticals, the P list includes drugs like Chemotherapy drugs
- U – all U listed wastes are toxic and include drugs like Arsenic (used in veterinary medicine and for parasitic disease), Cyanide salts, Epinephrine (allergy, cardiac arrest), and more.
Safe, Easy and Compliant Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal
Every healthcare facility managing pharmaceuticals must take great care in identifying the pharmaceutical waste, including hazardous substances and ensuring proper waste disposal. Rx Destroyer™ offers simple to use medication waste disposal containers in a wide variety of sizes which are typically used for non-RCRA medications. Users must determine and segregate hazardous waste. If hazardous waste is inadvertently added to Rx Destroyer™, it must be disposed of as RCRA hazardous waste. With non-RCRA waste, Rx Destroyer™ is designed to be discarded in the trash, always consult with your facility supervisor, local, state and federal guidelines.
Each container contains a patented solution which meets DEA requirements for chemical digestion of pharmaceutical waste. Simply drop in the medication, give a little shake and medication waste is quickly rendered non-retrievable.
Rx Destroyer™ offers pharmaceutical waste products which are an important part of maintaining total compliance for your organization. We offer turnkey solutions with DEA compliance consultations available, mail back options and waste haulers to meet your needs. Contact us to learn more about properly disposing of all medication waste.