Pharmaceutical waste disposal involves a lot of laws and just as many regulations. If you want your pharmacy to be fully compliant (and, therefore, minimize your chance of getting fined), you need to be organized and diligent about your waste management efforts. A checklist is one simple way to make sure you haven't neglected any steps. With that in mind, the following is a brief overview of five line items that should appear on your pharmaceutical waste checklist.

Pharmacy Waste Management Checklist: 5 Items Your List Should Include

  1. Look into your reverse distribution options.

One of the most common issues that comes up with pharmaceutical waste disposal is obviously how to dispose of expired medication safely and legally. Any drug past its shelf life is considered expired, but if the drug is reusable (meaning it's not opened or used in any way), it might be eligible for reverse distribution.

This process ensures the medications don't end up in the trash, water supply, or soil, and you can potentially get credits from these reverse distributors for your expired medicine.

If you haven't explored your reverse distribution options yet, put this at the top of your checklist.

  1. Educate your employees about how to deal with expired medications.

You can't hope to consistently comply with all legal regulations if your employees aren't informed about what's expected of them and what's allowed in terms of dealing with expired medication.

Be explicit—even if you think it's unnecessary. For example, proper expired medication disposal never involves putting those drugs in the regular trash or down the drain, and you need to make sure your employees understand this clearly.

Whether you're a small pharmacy or a large one, whether you're in the heart of a metropolitan area or the most out-of-the-way rural location, the laws are the same, and you must comply—or face the consequences.

  1. Properly segregate your drugs for future disposal.

Your pharmacy should always keep two pharmaceutical waste containers. These can be behind the counter, in storage, or in a closet. Whatever the location, these containers should be clearly marked and labeled—one for your P-listed waste and one for your U- and D-listed waste.

This segregation seems like a small step, but it can have a huge impact on your pharmacy. Namely, it can keep you from needlessly jumping to a large quantity generator status. Your EPA generator status determines how much paperwork and reporting are required of you and how many taxes you're subject to pay. If you have 2.2 pounds of P-listed waste, or acutely hazardous waste, on site, you become a large quantity generator, so you always want to keep your P-listed waste out of all other waste streams.

  1. Familiarize yourself with waste disposal protocol.

Where a lot of pharmacies get in trouble is not knowing what constitutes proper waste disposal. Some common mistakes include the following:

  • Putting expired medication in with red bag waste.
  • Putting medication in sharps bins before disposal.
  • Misidentifying waste as hazardous or nonhazardous.

All these issues have consequences, ranging from compromised safety to your pharmacy paying more than necessary for waste disposal.

  1. Look into your local hazardous waste disposal companies.

If you're overwhelmed or confused by all these rules, it makes a lot of sense to reach out to your local hazardous waste management companies. They can help walk you through everything you need to know in terms of proper pharmaceutical waste management.

In addition to the peace of mind you'd get from working with a trusted, professional hazardous waste disposal company, it can also be a smart financial move. If you pay, for example, $300 a year for pail pickups (two pails at $150 each), that's far less than you'd have to pay if you were subjected to a hazardous waste audit that revealed violations.

If you choose from reputable hazardous waste removal companies, they'll provide DOT-approved containers, they'll do the necessary paperwork, and they'll be flexible and accommodating with your waste pickups.

For more information about what should be included on your pharmaceutical waste disposal checklist or for similar waste disposal tips, please feel free to contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services, an Atlanta waste management company.