Managing waste pills and capsules
Many pharmaceutical tablets and capsules have the potential of designating as dangerous waste.
- Some contain sole active ingredients that are Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) P- or U-listed hazardous wastes, such as warfarin and reserpine.
- Others have ingredients that designate as RCRA hazardous waste for toxicity, such as chromium, selenium, and cadmium.
- Chemotherapy pharmaceuticals often designate as dangerous waste.
Return discontinued, outdated, or unused and unopened products to the pharmacy to determine if they can be sent for credit to a reverse distributor. If they can’t be returned for credit, they are non-viable pharmaceutical waste. If waste tablets and capsules are a controlled substance, they might need special management.
Management of non-viable tablets and capsules
Waste tablets and capsules that are eligible for credit from a manufacturer, wholesaler, or reverse distributor are viable pharmaceuticals and not considered waste. Viable pharmaceuticals include any unused and/or unopened pharmaceuticals that receive a credit. Items not receiving a credit must be managed as non-viable waste.
RCRA hazardous waste
Includes non-viable waste that that contains a P or U-listed constituent or fails the RCRA characteristics of ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity, (WAC 173-303-090). Dispose as dangerous waste at a RCRA-permitted facility.
State-only dangerous waste
You can assume that tablets or capsules that are not RCRA hazardous wastes are state-only dangerous waste. To determine that waste tablets or capsules are not state-only dangerous waste, you must know the concentration of the pharmaceuticals in the waste as well as the acute toxicity information of the pharmaceuticals. Refer to WAC 173-303-100.
Dispose as either dangerous waste at a RCRA-permitted facility or as excluded waste at an incinerator meeting the criteria of the Conditional Exclusion.
Note: It is a violation of the dangerous waste rules to dispose of these pharmaceuticals in the sewer, in a sharps container, or in a regulated medical waste container destined for a landfill.