Managing pharmaceutical waste

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New pharmaceutical waste regulations

As of Oct. 31, 2020, special requirements for the management of dangerous waste pharmaceuticals (WAC 173-303-555) went into effect.

Waste pharmaceuticals can affect the environment if they are not properly managed. Pharmaceuticals have been detected in water, sediments, and fish. We regulate businesses to ensure they properly manage waste pharmaceuticals.

As the agency charged with protecting Washington's environment, we also offer resources and technical assistance to help healthcare facilities comply with the law and protect the environment.

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Not a business?

If you are a household or individual looking for ways to dispose of household medication, go to MED-Project.org for a list of options.

Who must follow the new rules?

The special requirements apply to health care facilities that:

  • Provide preventative, diagnostic, therapeutic, rehabilitative, or palliative care to improve the physical or mental condition of humans and animals, OR
  • Sell or distribute pharmaceuticals.

Click the image to view full poster.

How do I manage my dangerous waste pharmaceuticals?

Use our flow chart to help you determine how to manage your dangerous waste pharmaceuticals. This poster is available by request.

Request this free poster.

Step 1: Count ALL waste

Count your dangerous waste. Pharmaceutical waste plus nonpharmaceutical waste

To determine how to manage your dangerous waste pharmaceuticals, you must count BOTH your:

  • Pharmaceutical dangerous waste, AND
  • Nonpharmaceutical dangerous waste each month.

Unsure what types of waste you have? See our designation page.

Step 2: Check your waste count against monthly waste limits

Monthly waste limits (QEL)
2.2 pounds of dangerous waste with a quantity exclusion limit (QEL) of 2.2 pounds
220 pounds of dangerous waste with a QEL of 220 pounds
220 pounds of residue or contaminated soil, water, or other debris resulting from the cleanup of a spill to land or water of any dangerous waste with a QEL of 2.2 pounds.

Step 3: Determine your management options

Compare your waste count against the monthly waste limits to now determine your management option(s).

If your waste count in a month is:

  • Greater than ANY of the waste thresholds, follow the special requirements.
  • Less than ALL waste thresholds, you can choose to follow either:
    • Special requirements, or
    • Standard dangerous waste requirements.

Management options

Special requirements

If you determine through the steps above that you must manage your dangerous waste pharmaceuticals using the special requirements, follow these steps.

Need more help?

See our webinars below for more help understanding the new pharmaceutical rules or visit our Frequently asked questions page for more answers. 

Guidance for hospitals and larger health care facilities

Watch the webinar our health care team conducted explaining how the new pharmaceutical rules apply to hospitals and larger health care facilities.

Available formats: YouTube | PDF slides

Guidance for clinics and smaller health care facilities

Watch the webinar our health care team conducted explaining how the new pharmaceutical rules apply to clinics and smaller health care facilities.

Available formats: YouTube | PDF slides