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Pharmaceutical waste solutions, suspensions, ointments, and creams

Some pharmaceuticals come pre-packaged in ready-to-use mixed solutions, suspensions, ointments, and creams. If these pharmaceuticals contain toxic chemicals, they may need to be managed as dangerous waste.

Unused and unopened mixtures

Return discontinued, outdated, or unused and unopened products to the pharmacy to see if they can be returned for credit to a reverse distributor. If they can’t, they are non-viable pharmaceutical waste.

Partially used mixtures

When products have been opened and only partially used, they are non-viable mixtures that cannot be returned to a reverse distributor. You must determine if they are Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste or state-only dangerous waste.

Empty mixture containers

See empty pharmaceutical containers.

Do not dispose of these liquids down the drain or into soiled linens destined for the laundry.

Authorization by your local sewer authority is required for disposal of any process waste to sanitary sewer. Sewer agencies may not accept dangerous wastes. The sewer authority will also consider how the compounds affect their treatment system and the microorganisms.

Designating waste mixtures

RCRA hazardous waste

Includes non-viable formulations that designate under the RCRA characteristics of ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity (Dangerous waste characteristics, WAC 173-303-090). Examples of mixtures that designate as RCRA hazardous waste include:

  • Silver sulfadiazine (or Silvadene) and silver nitrate (D011)
  • Thimerosal and other mercury-containing ingredients (D009)
  • Unused or leftover barium enemas (D005)
  • Non-aqueous solutions with a flashpoint of less than 140° F (D001)
  • Compounding chemicals (glacial acetic acid and sodium hydroxide) (D002 if pH is 2.0 or less, or 12.5 and greater)

State-only dangerous waste

You can assume non-viable mixtures that are not RCRA hazardous waste are state-only dangerous waste. To determine that the waste is not state-only dangerous waste, you must know the concentration of all the constituents as well as the acute toxicity information of those ingredients, WAC 173-303-100.

View pharmaceutical designation flowchart.

Managing waste mixtures

Viable mixtures

Mixtures that are eligible for credit from a manufacturer, wholesaler, or reverse distributor are viable pharmaceuticals and not considered waste. Viable pharmaceuticals include unused or unopened pharmaceuticals that receive a credit. Items not receiving a credit must be managed as non-viable waste.

RCRA hazardous waste mixture

Dispose as hazardous waste at a RCRA-permitted facility.

State-only dangerous waste mixtures

Dispose at a RCRA-permitted facility or as excluded waste at an incinerator meeting the criteria of the Conditional Exclusion.

View pharmaceutical waste management flowchart.