Pharmaceutical waste is one waste stream that has historically not been dealt with in the proper manner. Various healthcare facilities have been lax about proper disposal, but regulations (and fines) are only going to get more stringent. It's important, therefore, that every healthcare facility has a clear, outlined step-by-step plan in place for proper pharmacy waste disposal.
Pharmacy Waste Management: 4 Steps Every Healthcare Facility Should Know
Get Educated about Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal
The first—and arguably most important—step is simply to get educated about what is expected of your healthcare facility in order to be fully compliant. You and everyone at your facility need to understand that pharmaceutical waste cannot go in the standard trash, be dumped down the sink, or flushed down the toilet. All pharmacy waste, including pharmaceutical samples, must be specially and properly dealt with.
Perhaps the largest offense in this regard is putting expired medications or samples into your red bag medical waste. This is against policy, but it's not just about potentially getting handed down a fine. It's actually unsafe.
All red bag waste is treated through an autoclaving process. This is essentially a sterilization machine that uses 300-degree steam to treat regulated medical waste. Whether your expired pharmaceuticals are hazardous or nonhazardous waste, it's still dangerous to treat them via a medical waste autoclave because they'll remain unsafe for disposal, even after this treatment.
Failure to comply with these kinds of regulations could result in EPA fines. And it doesn't matter why you're not in compliance. Some people think they won't get caught; others genuinely didn't know they're violating any laws. Either way—willful or not, small clinic or massive hospital—you can get slapped with a hefty EPA fine if you're not careful.
Correctly Identify Your Pharmaceutical Waste
Once you know the proper procedure, all that's left is to properly execute that procedure. This means correctly doing the first step: identification. After all, you can't properly dispose of something if you don't know what type of waste stream you're actually dealing with.
Correctly Segregate Your Pharmacy Waste
Once everything is accurately identified, it's time to actually segregate and store those waste types in their assigned pharmaceutical waste containers, which should be Department of Transportation (DOT) certified. For many healthcare facilities, such as small to midsize doctors' offices, they are really not going to produce that much of this kind of waste in a given year. Doing everything by the book and to the letter is going to cost a bit, but think of this small up-front fee like an insurance policy that protects you against the big, potentially facility-closing consequences.
Contact a Reputable Waste Management Company
People are getting fined for noncompliance every day, and those fines are only going to get heftier as the laws are more strictly enforced. This means healthcare facilities need to face a simple truth: if they don't spend money to learn how to dispose of expired medication and then follow through on that expired medication disposal, they could be looking at debilitating fines.
It's essential, therefore, to work with a qualified, experienced, reputable waste management company. Again, think of this expense more like an insurance policy. You have to spend a little to work with a company and avoid the big financial penalty if and when you're eventually caught doing the wrong thing.
To ensure you're working with somebody reputable in your area, double-check that the company has all necessary insurance and permitting, as well as a sterling compliance history. They should provide all the necessary paperwork (to prove your compliance in the event of an audit) and general education and guidance about the ins and outs of this kind of waste disposal when you have questions.
For more information about how to properly deal with any and all pharmacy waste issues, please feel free to contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services, a waste management Atlanta company.