[Pharmwaste] Following up on Trash Disposal study discussion

David Stitzhal stitzhal at fullcircleenvironmental.com
Fri May 18 16:08:07 EDT 2012

Great discussion re. the recent Michigan report on trash disposal.

I want to also emphasize the importance of keeping our eyes on the 
producer responsibility aspect of this public health challenge. 
Certainly if the take-back with incineration approach could be 
definitively shown to be considerably more environmentally harmful 
than trash disposal, then we would want to consider the landfill-only 
approach.  However, given the limits of life-cycle assessment, that 
is unlikely to be the case.  (And we still need to answer important 
questions about this study, such as those raised already on this 
forum re. number of trips, trip-chaining, etc.).

But the point I want to raise has to do with who should be paying for 
whatever management approach we take.  The world, and slowly the US, 
is moving toward a producer responsibility approach for financing and 
managing our daily discards.  The cost of end-of-life impacts should 
be placed in the producer-consumer relationship, not in the govt.- 
taxpayer relationship.

So, with overall environmental impact being equal  between 
landfilling and take-back  -- and I suspect that even if the MI study 
proves to be robust, landfilling won't come out way ahead of 
take-back and incineration -- take-back programs in which the bill 
goes to the pharmaceutical manufacturers is the way to go  (for 
public health, environmental health, and public safety reasons).

However, even if we do end up with an all-landfilling solution, we 
still need to find a way to shift the costs of that approach to the 
producers.  What does it cost to have a modern landfill that captures 
pharmaceuticals (some of which are RCRA listed hazardous waste)? 
What does it cost to capture leachate and send it to sewage 
treatment? What does it cost to capture meds at sewage treatment 
plants?  What does it cost to have inter-sex fish due to the meds we 
don't capture in treatment? What does it cost when we send bio-active 
drug constituents in the sewage sludge to be land-applied on our food 
crops?  What does it cost to research whether those crops deliver 
meds to our bodies?  Perhaps those costs should be borne by producers 
as well before they can bring product to market.

Some ruminations.


David Stitzhal, MRP
Full Circle Environmental, Inc.
3111 37th Place South
Seattle, WA 98144
206-723-0528 phone
206-723-2452 fax
stitzhal at fullcircleenvironmental.com

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