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Hazardous (and Universal) Waste Management

Course Number: 499

Pharmaceutical Wastes

In general, the disposal of expired and other drugs is regulated by the federal EPA and/or its counterpart state agencies if the sole active ingredient in the pharmaceutical in question is a hazardous waste (e.g., epinephrine [P042]), the pharmaceutical contains some other ingredient that results in the pharmaceutical to exhibit a characteristic of hazardous waste (e.g., contains enough alcohol [D001] to be flammable), or the material is otherwise regulated by your state environmental agency.20 Disposal of controlled substances is regulated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).21

Hazardous pharmaceutical wastes are most commonly treated by incineration and the resulting ash is disposed of in a permitted hazardous waste landfill. The federal EPA recommends that non-hazardous and non-controlled drugs should be disposed of in a solid waste landfill or incinerated in accordance with state and local environmental regulations.22,23 Non-hazardous pharmaceuticals should not be disposed of into sanitary sewer or septic systems.

The disposal of controlled or scheduled drugs under the Controlled Substance Act must be managed according to the regulations issued by the DEA.21 Oral healthcare practitioners registered with the DEA may destroy unused controlled substances in accordance with state guidelines, which require appropriate documentation. BMP for the disposal of pharmaceutical waste – a ten-step blueprint for healthcare facilities is presented elsewhere.24