What Is Non-Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste & How to Dispose of it

If your business works with pharmaceuticals or controlled substances, it most likely produces non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste. 

Most people hear the term “non-hazardous” and stop there, believing that you can dispose of it with regular trash if it’s not hazardous. Unfortunately, non-RCRA hazardous waste still poses health risks to the environment. Therefore, you need to follow strict disposal guidelines – set out by the environmental protection agency – when getting rid of medical waste.

At INGENIUM, we specialize in waste disposal for various healthcare facilities. We pride ourselves on being the industry leader in providing sustainable hazardous waste management solutions.

We don’t simply transport and dispose of waste; instead, we commit to being responsible and accountable for sustainability, reducing cost and liability for our clients in every regard. Our waste-to-energy plant allows us to convert disposed of hazardous pharmaceutical materials, keep costs low for your business, and help you meet organizational sustainability goals.

Read on to learn more about non-RCRA pharmaceutical waste and learn more about how INGENIUM can be your pharmaceutical waste management solution.

What Is Non-RCRA Pharmaceutical Waste?

“RCRA” stands for the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the public law that creates the framework for proper management of hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste. Therefore, “non-RCRA pharmaceutical waste” refers to any waste that does not fall into this category according to 40 CFR 261.3 but still poses a danger to human health or the environment if not disposed of properly.

Non-RCRA waste accounts for nearly 85% of all hospital and pharmacy inventory waste and must still abide by EPA regulations.

What Is Non-Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste?

Despite the standard label of “non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste,” the medical waste produced by health care facilities still presents environmental safety risks if not disposed of properly. Non-hazardous acts as a misnomer, as many drugs, cannot organically decompose in the environment without having lasting effects on creatures, fauna, and the water supply.

What Are Some Examples of Pharmaceutical Waste?

Pharmaceutical waste that falls into this category includes:

  • U and P listed medications where the listed chemicals are not the active ingredients
  • Medications deemed hazardous by OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
  • Drugs categorized as LD50 or below 50 mg/kg
  • Medications that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services list as carcinogenic
  • Any mineral or vitamin supplement which contains enough selenium, cadmium, or chromium to fail toxicity tests
  • Expired medication, unused medications, or unused pharmaceuticals

Despite listing them as non-RCRA drugs, the law requires you to dispose of these controlled substances properly to protect the water supply and drinking water from contamination.

Solid Pharmaceutical Waste

This category typically includes items that may have chemical residue after use. It includes:

  • Scalpels, needles, and syringes
  • Contaminated gloves, masks, bandages, and IV bags
  • Empty pill bottles, blister packs, and other receptacles
  • Autoinjectors, inhalers, nebulizers, and other medication delivery devices

Acute Hazardous Waste

This type of pharmaceutical waste groups into two categories mentioned above: P and U list waste. Items on these lists can prove dangerous even in small quantities.

The P list includes wastes from commercial products, while the U list includes non-acute hazardous wastes from commercial chemical products.

Some examples of items on the P list include:

  • Arsenic trioxide
  • Epinephrine
  • Nicotine
  • Phentermine
  • Physostigmine
  • Physostigmine salicylate

Some hazardous chemicals on the U list include chemotherapy drugs, such as:

  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Daunomycin
  • Melphalan
  • Streptozotocin

If you deal with any of the items mentioned on either list, reach out to INGENIUM today so we can handle all your medication disposal safely.

Characteristic Hazardous Waste

The RCRA identifies hazardous waste according to a list of drug characteristics. This list is also known as the D list. Four main categories define these drugs:

  1. Ignitability: This includes drugs with flash points below 60 degrees Celsius, flammable non-liquids, and compressed gasses and oxidizers. Ignitable pharmaceutical products include those that contain over 24% alcohol or contain gel bases.
  2. Corrosivity: Most corrosive waste have extreme pH values. Liquids with a pH lower than two or greater than 12.5 tend to be corrosive, and this includes any that can damage steel. This category contains potent acids and bases.
  3. Reactivity: These may react with water, act unstably under typical conditions, emit toxic gases, or explode when met with heat.

Toxicity: These hazardous pharmaceutical wastes can directly harm living creatures when injected or absorbed into the body. Many hazardous pharmaceuticals fall into this category.

Proper Disposal of Unused Pharmaceutical Waste as Per Federal Regulations

Every institution dealing with non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste needs to set a waste management plan to ensure their waste disposal is up to par with the law.

If you’re having trouble following regulations on your own, we are here to help. To prevent environmental contamination following federal regulations, INGENIUM specializes in pharmaceutical waste disposal for various companies, including pharmacies and hospitals.

Our pharmaceutical waste disposal includes all of the following:

  • Non-hazardous waste disposal
  • Containerized waste disposal
  • Waste-to-energy services
  • Tank cleaning
  • Secure destruction
  • Removal of all chemicals from containers

When your facility needs to sustainably dispose of non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste, turn to INGENIUM. Our organization has extensive experience dealing with pharmaceutical waste, and we’ll work with just about any business to help them meet their sustainability goals.

Ready to get started with our pharmaceutical waste team? Give us a call today at (760) 745-8780 or fill out our risk assessment form to get the process started. Talk with one of our professional team members and learn more about how we can transform how your company deals with its waste.

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