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Redefining Pharmaceutical Medical Waste Can Save You a Bundle

Is all of your pharmaceutical medical waste truly hazardous? If it’s not, your facility may be throwing out a lot of money unnecessarily.

As a medical waste generator, you might be under the impression that ‘all types of pharmaceutical wastes were created equal.’ As this misconception plays itself out, your facility will end up generating a tremendous amount of P-listed wastes (commercial chemical products that are categorized as acutely hazardous under RCRA), and paying a premium to a medical waste disposal company for proper disposal.

So, what’s wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong is that in reality, only approximately 3% of the pharmaceutical waste out there is actually hazardous!

The rest can be segregated and disposed of along with regular hospital waste. In fact, most average facilities could cut down on hazardous pharmaceutical waste by over 90%, if they would just educate themselves regarding the relevant regulations!

How does such an oversight happen on such a routine basis? It’s the result of a combination of factors.

For one thing, most facilities indiscriminately toss partially used or expired pharmaceuticals into hazardous waste containers. A careful review of the each drug would reveal that many of them do not qualify as hazardous waste at all.

Secondly, used containers, dosage cups and syringes are routinely included in the facility’s P-listed waste calculation, despite the fact that the US EPA clearly indicates that only residue need be counted towards generator status for solid P-listed drugs.

Thirdly, facilities rarely take the time to think about out whether or not their hazardous waste meets the EPA’s definition of ‘hazardous’: ignitable, corrosive, toxic, or reactive.

Fourthly, there are some unscrupulous companies out there that claim to perform ‘reverse distribution’ (return of expired pharmaceuticals to companies for redistribution in countries with more flexible expiration dates), but in actuality end up dumping the pharmaceuticals into incinerators, with the facility picking up the tab.

Finally, many facilities erroneously assume that because their medical waste disposal company did not make any distinction between various types of pharmaceutical waste, neither should they. At Medassure, we provide this type of information and education as a routine part of our service; however, most medical waste businesses do not even mention it, leaving the responsibility to the facility.

Whatever the cause, the remedy is the same: Careful review of existing pharmaceutical waste disposal procedures and policies, and change. It may take time, it may take effort; but if it can reduce your hazardous waste disposal bill by as much as 50%, we think it’s worth the effort.