[Pharmwaste] Small drug disposal devices

Bickford, Barbara J - DNR (Barb) Barbara.Bickford at Wisconsin.gov
Mon Oct 22 14:35:47 EDT 2012

I'm writing in response to the question about small devices that claim to render drugs unrecoverable.

In Wisconsin, we are telling businesses and institutions which might use these devices, that the facilities themselves probably would not be subject to licensing as being "treatment facilities" if they use them.  It's wise to check with your state regulatory agency on this point.

However, facilities must be very careful about what they put in the devices.  Controlled substances should only be put in them if the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has agreed in writing that this meets their regulations.  I've not seen documentation of DEA's blessing for any devices yet.

If a business or institution (i.e., a regulated facility) puts a drug in the device and if that drug that would be considered a hazardous waste (e.g., Coumadin), then the whole device is considered to be a hazardous waste and must be disposed of as a hazardous waste.   Therefore, facilities must "evaluate" each drug for its regulatory status (hazardous or non-hazardous, per RCRA regulations) _before_ putting the drugs in the device.  Otherwise, they may end up with a mixed waste that is difficult and expensive to dispose of.

If devices like this are used in homes, the question of putting controlled substances in them remains under the jurisdiction of the DEA.  The device itself is regulated as an exempt waste under RCRA and legally may be sent to a landfill.  However, it would be better for the environment for the resident to deliver all controlled substances to DEA-sanctioned collection locations and other drugs to a medication collection offered by DEA or other authority.

Then the question arises, where exactly is the line between "homes" and "businesses and institutions"?   I suggest that nursing homes, assisted living, group homes and others in the gray area contact their state environmental regulatory agency to find out whether they are regulated as "homes" or "businesses and institutions."  In Wisconsin, the line is not based on the type of facility, but on who manages the waste.  Our guidance in the area is posted here:

Barb Bickford, Medical Waste Coordinator
WI Dept. of Natural Resources, Waste & Materials Management program
101 S. Webster St.,  P.O. Box 7921,  Madison, WI   53707-7921
Phone:   608-267-3548                          FAX:  608-267-2768
barbara.bickford at wisconsin.gov OR DNRmedicalwaste at wisconsin.gov

Healthcare waste:  http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/HealthWaste/
Wisconsin H2E:  http://wh2e.org
Practice Greenhealth: http://www.practicegreenhealth.org

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