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What You Need to Know About Pharmaceutical Waste Management

You have to deal with pharmaceutical waste if you run either  a hospital, an emergency care clinic or a pharmacy. This could include expired pharmaceuticals, bags and vials containing traces of a toxic drug, or pills and liquids that spilled or were spit out by a patient. Surely, there exist many other types of waste produced by a pharmacy, such as product packaging, personal protective equipment, etc. But in this article we’ll use pharmaceutical waste to imply mainly pills, vaccines, ointments and related medications used for treating patients or medical research.

It is very important to collect and dispose pharmaceutical waste in an appropriate manner, because it poses a big risk to the environment and people. If hazardous or bio-active substances enter our ground water or water treatment plants, they may lead to adverse effects in humans, animals and plants on a molecular level. The environment is already polluted with the pharmaceuticals we use to medicate ourselves, our pets and livestock. As a medical facility, it’s your duty to ensure proper collection and disposal of pharmaceutical waste, whether it’s a single vial or an entire case.

Classifying Pharmaceutical Waste

Many different waste items produced during day-to-day operations of a pharmacy or a healthcare facility are included in pharmaceutical waste. These items may belong to the following medical waste categories based on their toxicity and disposal requirements:

  • RCRA hazardous waste, specifically P-listed and U-listed substances (chemical products that pose risk to the environment and human health).
  • Substances that are not specifically listed as RCRA hazardous waste, but that possess similar characteristics and should be treated as hazardous.
  • Infectious wasteincludes things like live vaccines and blood products.
  • Controlled substances that fall under the DEA regulations.

Separating Hazardous and Non-hazardous Waste

The seperation of  RCRA hazardous waste from non-hazardous waste is considered one of the biggest challenges of managing pharmaceutical waste . This is very important  to ensure proper collection and disposal. As it was already said, RCRA hazardous substances are seperated  into several lists that you can check with.

Thus,  you can’t rrely on the new substances as they  get developed faster than these lists are updated,. If a substance is not on one of the RCRA lists, find  the following qualities that RCRA has selected to help identify “characteristic hazardous waste.”

  • Ignitability—often a solution containing 24% alcohol or more and has a flash point less than 140 degrees F.
  • Corrosivity—has a pH of 2 or lower or 2.5 or higher.
  • Reactivity—unstable substances that react with basic elements, such as water, and produce harmful byproducts.
  • Toxicity—mostly heavy metals that may be above maximum concentration.

Feel free to click on the links and print out the full definitions provided by the EPA. If one or more of these characteristics are present in a pharmaceutical, treat it as hazardous.

Disposal of RCRA Hazardous Waste

RCRA hazardous waste  shouldn’t be collected in red bags as  is not the same as infectious or biohazardous waste,  that’s why  it is specifically  collected in large drums or smaller black bins with secure lids.  it’s important to choose the right container and place a label identifying whether the waste is flammable, toxic or otherwise dangerous due  to the fact that  hazardous waste can be reactive and corrosive, Some unopened or partially used pharmaceuticals may be eligible for shipping back to the manufacturer.

Never dispose of liquid RCRA hazardous waste by pouring it down the drain. Most water treatment facilities are not provided with such equippments which may  help  to remove these kind of contaminants from water. RCRA hazardous waste needs to be collected by your Los Angeles medical waste management company and transported to an RCRA-approved facility for disposal. This type of waste, before being placed in a landfill,  was traditionally incinerated, but the EPA has recently proposed new regulations to require 100% incineration.

New EPA Regulations

As we figured out, the EPA has recently offered new management standards for hazardous waste pharmaceuticals. These  standards aim  to protect waterways and drinking water supplies from contamination with pharm waste, and also protect the population  from mismanagement of hazardous waste.

If admitted, these new standards will apply to any healthcare or similar facilities that deal with RCRA hazardous pharmaceutical waste. What this means to you:

  • You will have to follow subpart P of 40 CFR part 266 (the new rule), instead of 40 CFR part 262 (the current rule).
  • Pharmaceuticals that are not eligible for manufacturer’s credit (non-creditable) can be managed on or off site. When managed off site, they should be accompanied by the hazardous waste manifest.
  • Pharmaceuticals that are eligible for manufacturer’s credit (creditable) can be shipped to the manufacturer.
  • Disposal of RCRA pharmaceuticals by pouring down the drain or toilet will be prohibited.
  • Hazardous pharm waste managed under this rule won’t count toward determining your status as a small-quantity or large-quantity generator.
  • Pharmaceuticals that are also controlled substances under DEA may be exempt from this rule.
  • There will be new rules for managing trace hazardous waste (residue left in containers).

As always, you can rely on GLYCON LLC, Inc. to keep you up to date on any new regulations.

Educate Your Staff and Patients

Find out and be convinced whether  your personeel knows how to separate different kinds of pharmaceutical waste and which containers to use.  Besides insuring proper disposal this will  help prevent unnecessary exposure to potentially harmful substances. And remember  to educate your patients about what they should do with their unused or expired medications. You could even carry out  a “send back your unused pills” program to offer your patients an easy solution.

Have any other questions about pharmaceutical waste disposal? Feel free to contact Glycon LLC, and we’ll be happy to clear up any confusion, provide proper containers or offer professional advice.


When we make a decision about disposing of pharmaceuticals of any kind, it is time for hesitation whether to flush prescriptions down the toilet or sink. It’s obvious that doing such things may raise the risk of contaminating ground water. However it is also not desirable to throw the said pharmaceuticals in the trash. Landfills are already overflowing with hazardous items, and there is a possibility for them to end up in the wrong hands. The EPA and other governing agencies have been sparing their efforts over the past couple of years putting together policies to protect our environment and the human race alike.

What does this mean for your business or facility? Check out the following frequently asked questions about pharmaceutical waste disposal and waste management if you want to find out more about how you can assist your place of work and your environment.

Are All Pharmaceuticals Considered Hazardous Waste?

Of course, not all pharmaceutical waste is considered a hazardous waste depending on where you live. Although even if a particular type of pharmaceutical waste may not be considered “hazardous”, pharmaceuticals can still be harmful. Because of this reason it is very important to dispose of, transport, and eliminate pharmaceutical waste properly. Different types of chemicals combinations are included in pharmaceuticals. and in case of improper disposing of multiple pharmaceuticals major damage can be caused.

Can Pharmaceutical Waste Be Red Bagged ?

The simple answer is “no.” Like we talked about it above, pharmaceutical waste often contains many different chemicals and chemical combinations; therefore, it is considered a hazardous chemical waste. Red bagged waste contains bio-hazardous waste and is most commonly placed in an autoclave, microwave, or incinerator until the waste is considered harmless.

Hazardous chemical waste, such as pharmaceutical waste, must be disposed of by placing the waste into an incinerator which is brought to a temperature that is so high that it can literally break down the chemical composition of the waste.

Can All Pharmaceutical Waste Be Placed In The Same Disposal Container?

Pharmaceutical waste can have different forms, among them liquid, powder, and solids. As far as we know from the subject of chemistry class, when we join certain chemicals together, chemical reactions occur. So it is very important that certain pharmaceuticals be divided in separate containers depending on certain characteristics of ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity.

Why Is Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal Important?

There are a lot of reasons why it is important and necessary to dispose the pharmaceutical waste. Several main top reasons for proper disposal are: the health of workers and patients, the reputation of facility, and the facility’s bottom dollar due to increased fines being imposed if hazardous waste is not disposed of properly.

Glycon realizes the policies and regulations that surround medical waste removal and medical waste disposal. Let Glycon take the efforts and stress out of managing your facility’s medical waste flow.

Glycon offers safe, compliant, and affordable solutions customized to fit your requirements. Give Glycon a call today at (844) 494-8222

Which Pharmaceutical Drugs are Considered Hazardous Waste?

A great number of prescription drugs are allocated throughout the U.S every day. Many go unused by the prescribed patients who are left to wonder how to dispose of these pharmaceuticals in a right way. Wrong disposal of pharmaceutical drugs classified as dangerous can cause negative impacts on the environment and even the health of individuals around them. In accordance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there exist nearly 30 commercial chemical products. They are listed on the dangerous waste lists that are used pharmaceutic ally. However, a lot of people are unaware of which pharmaceuticals contain these chemical compositions.

A hard waste is considered hazardous waste if it meets a listing or exhibits a characteristic described in title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations part 261. The best way to describe it is to see if the waste exhibits one or more of these four characteristics: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity. When the time of a pharmaceutical drug expired and you throw them away. You should check to see if it contains a hazardous chemical that needs specific methods of disposal.

Visit Washington Department of Ecology Website to see the full article on which pharmaceutical drugs constitute as dangerous waste

The Department of Ecology website gives you an overview of which pharmaceuticals constitute as hazardous waste, together a list of generic prescription names you can search.


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To get free quotes on regulated waste disposal, fill out the form to the right, or give us a call at (844) 494-8222.

7 Things You Need To Know About Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal

Everyone knows that pharmaceutical waste when disposed of poorly, can have catastrophic effect on the environment and also on the life quality of people. Thus the EPA has been handing out such huge fines ( as high as $10,000 to $25,000 per violation a day, besides  to jail them) to facilities and corporations that do not manage to follow the disposal guidelines established by the law. The following things you have to know in order to avoid risking either the environment or  your own company.

Label your hazardous waste properly

Be convinced  that all of the pharmaceutical waste created by your company islabeled as hazardous, in such a way that the label is seen from wherever the container is viewed from.

For doing this, you need to determine the classification of dangerous waste. Characteristic or D-List waste has one of the following characteristics: reactivity, toxicity, ignitability or corrosively. Toxic or U-List waste contains most chemotherapy drugs. Acutely hazardous or P-List waste is the most hazardous.

Treat your P-List waste appropriately

P-List waste must be treated with all the respect it deserves, given how highly toxic it is. It must  be collected separately in case if it is  mixed with other materials, all of that waste is automatically considered  to be P-List,too. On the day  the waste container enters the storage area has to be visibly labeled. Companies also are obliged  to prove how much P-List waste they send  every month to an inspector.

Conduct weekly inspections of

An inspection needs to be held every week of all hazardous waste containers so as  to ensure that the  contents have not been compromised.

Don’t treat  biohazardous & pharmaceutical waste the same way

Biohazardous waste must be  sterilizedin order to abolish  the risk of infection and then disposed of in a landfill. Pharmaceutical waste cannot be disposed of in the same way, because it will disappear seeping into the water supply or surface water from a landfill. This kind of waste must  be detached and incinerated instead.

Never ever dump hazardous waste into the sewer

In case of violation of  this rule by anyone  with receiving  a citation from the EPA, and if the act was done deliberately, it could translate into jail time.

Train your employees well

It is important to train employees who deal  with pharmaceutical waste on proper disposal technique. All employees need to understand disposal and transportation methods. Employees who have  waste responsibilities related to their function, like nurses, physicians or lab technicians need to be given training  corresponding  to their duties. All training sessions must be completely documented.

Be prepared for emergencies

In case of emergency situations such as a chemical spill, it is important  that all the facilities within the building have a comprehensive emergency response plan to contain the immediate danger.

Glycon Medical Waste offers full service waste management specifically planned to serve the California Healthcare Industry. All waste generators whether large or small, are able to take part in waste management programs provided by Glycon Medical Waste. Services provided by Glycon Medical Waste are adjusted to bring specially-made waste disposal services to facilities providing the highest level of customer service and regulatory compliance.
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