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What Steps Must be Followed for the Disposal of Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste?


Pharmaceutical waste

The proper handling of hazardous pharmaceutical waste is important to both individuals and society as a whole. Everything from sharps waste management to medical waste removal can impact how safe our children and grandchildren’s futures will be. Working with a certified medical waste disposal company when disposing of pharmaceutical waste is essential. The following 11 steps for using waste containers are an important part of the process:

  • Step 1. Understand and know what controlled substances are covered under separate regulations. Morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, diazepam, lorazepam, and zolpidem are examples of substances that must be shipped and transported in accordance with DEA regulations for packaging, inventory, and transport. Even more importantly, these chemicals have specific requirements for destruction.
  • Step 2. Identify Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous pharmaceutical waste. Black containers are often used; however, there is no specific requirement about the color of the hazardous waste container. The best practice is to select and stay with a specific color plan, so that it will be easier for your workers to identify the proper hazardous pharmaceutical waste container.
  • Step 3. Be aware of distinct regulations for especially hazardous (P-listed) waste. Medications like epinephrine, nicotine, and warfarin are examples of some chemicals that pose an acute threat to the environment by contaminating fresh water sources.
  • Step 4. Know if your healthcare facility generates U-listed waste. If, for example, any of your patients receive chemotherapy, your institution most likely needs to dispose of minute (trace) and large (bulk) amounts.
  • Step 5. Divide yellow-container ?trace? and black-container ?bulk? chemotherapy. “RCRA empty? is the official EPA designation for trace amounts. This refers to the chemotherapy vial, bag, or receptacle that is empty AND less than 3% of the former volume remains. Bulk refers to any greater amounts.
  • Step 6. Isolate RCRA “characteristic” hazardous wastes. These are defined as medications that are toxic or can react, ignite, or are corrosive.
  • Step 7. Use best practices, including proper disposal of sharps which represent only 1% of the total waste, but are a major source of disease transmission if not properly managed.
  • Step 8. Rely on the experts. Private waste management companies can answer and provide supplies for disposing of hazardous pharmaceutical waste materials.
  • Step 9. Simplify your disposal, if possible. A solution that is reliable and convenient will help an organization stay in compliance and be sustainable.
  • Step 10. Train your staff. No process or system will work unless every member of your staff is trained and updated on any changes.
  • Step 11. Choose a good partner. The company you select must be licensed by the EPA and DOT to transport hazardous waste. In addition, hazardous waste must be transported to a permitted treatment, storage, and disposal facility.

Two million tons of medical wastes are generated a year. That amounts to 5,500 tons of waste a day. Most of this waste comes from hospitals, but other sources include doctor?s offices, dental labs, research facilities, laboratories and veterinarian offices. Companies that manufacture pharmaceuticals also produce high amounts of this waste. Though 80% of hospital wastes can be treated as normal garbage, the remaining 20%, which amounts to 400,000 yearly tons, must be handled carefully. If incorrectly disposed, health care workers, patients, waste disposal professionals, and even the general public can be exposed to infectious diseases.

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