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Non-hazardous, Non-DEA Pharmaceutical Waste: What DOESN’T Belong In That Box?

Some (but not all) pharmaceutical waste must be treated as hazardous waste. Here is one difference and how to dispose of non-hazardous, non-DEA pharmaceutical waste.

All businesses and institutions that generate pharmaceutical waste are responsible for disposing of that waste according to state and federal law. Given the wide variety of pharmaceutical wastes, complying with those laws can be daunting. Managers of pharmaceutical waste need to know the difference between non-hazardous, non-DEA waste; hazardous, non-DEA waste; and DEA waste. When it comes to non-hazardous, non-DEA waste, what does NOT go in that pharmaceutical waste box?

Non-hazardous, Non-DEA Waste: The Basics

This type of pharmaceutical waste is what you’ll find over-the-counter; acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and combination cold medications, contraceptives, all classes of antibiotics, hormones, and non-RCRA prescription medications. Despite appearing to be harmless in nature, if disposed of improperly these medications can still contaminate our waterways. In fact, a U.S. Geological Survey found perceptible amounts of one or more medications in 80% of water samples drawn from a network of 139 streams in 30 states.

Disposal Practices for Non-hazardous, Non-DEA Waste

While the FDA has and still recommends flushing certain medications depending on the state, this isn’t the best course of action for medication disposal. Putting unused medications down the drain or flushing them down the toilet may expose drinking water to the chemicals. This can cause ecological harm, as our current sewage treatment systems are not effective in removing all drugs from waterways. The best course of action is to research a take-back program. Law enforcement, public health, and environmental professionals feel that these programs are the safest and most responsible way to dispose of unwanted and expired medicines to protect your family and to protect our waters.

The same goes for tossing medication in the trash. It is not recommended to just place unused medication in a garbage can, rather add cat litter, coffee grounds, or some other unappealing material in an effort to cut down on the chances that a child or animal might eat the contents.

What Does NOT Go In a Non-hazardous, Non-DEA Pharmaceutical Disposal Receptacle?

Now that we know what is considered non-hazardous, non-DEA pharmaceutical waste, what does NOT go in this specific receptacle? For one, controlled substances would land you in serious hot water if disposed of with non-controlled substances. The DEA’s Rule for the Disposal of Controlled Substances, which implements the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, authorized the DEA to develop and implement regulations that outline methods to transfer unused or unwanted pharmaceutical controlled substances to authorized collectors for the purpose of disposal.

This also includes hazardous, non-DEA waste, such as P-listed medications, which are those that pose a threat to the environment by contaminating fresh water. Containers holding P-listed waste are considered hazardous, which is why proper labeling, maintaining hazardous waste shipping manifests and other documentation is a requirement, not an option.

Healthcare facilities such as hospitals, nursing facilities, and clinics are the largest bulk users of medications. Disposing of this waste can be confusing for any of these facilities, which is why Red Bags is here to help healthcare facilities, pharmacies, and other generators of non-hazardous, non-DEA pharmaceutical waste properly handle and dispose of it in a manner that is compliant and safe.

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