News & Events

Environmental update: household prescription medication waste is posing an environmental hazard

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
September 2004 Edition


By Evelyn Bain, M Ed, RN, COHN-S
Associate Director/Coordinator, Occupational Safety and Health Specialist

The U.S. EPA recently announced a pilot program for innovative approaches addressing issues of the disposal of household prescription medication waste (HPW) in terms of both solid waste and waste in municipal water supplies. This also includes the plastic prescription vials, stock bottles and liquids bottles that are used by pharmacies. At present there are no widely available solutions for proper management of HPW.

The North East Recycling Council Inc, (NERC), in conjunction with the EPA New England and other public and private cooperative partners, plans to develop and implement a pilot collection program(s) for HPW and bulk compounding (drug-associated) chemicals.

According to the EPA, pharmacies use bulk compounding chemicals in formulation of prescription medications. These chemicals also present a municipal solid waste (MSW) concern, as many of these chemicals are recognized as hazardous waste. In addition, many prescription medications are dispensed in plastic containers that are ultimately disposed. Recycling even just a portion of the millions of plastic prescription vials, stock bottles and liquids bottles used in New England pharmacies each month would result in significant energy conservation and greenhouse gas savings.

The value of participating in recycling and reuse programs is understood by nurses. Watch for news items that discuss these projects as they come off the EPA’s drawing board.

For a full copy of this release visit the EPA OSWER Innovations Web site at: