Nicotine and cannabis waste

Many nicotine and cannabis products designate as a dangerous waste when expired or discarded and meet the definition of a pharmaceutical waste. Businesses that handle nicotine and cannabis wastes must manage and dispose of them properly.

This applies to: 

  • Convenience stores.
  • Grocery stores.
  • Vape retailers.
  • Dispensaries.
  • Schools that acquire nicotine or cannabis wastes. 
  • Other facilities that accumulate nicotine or cannabis wastes.

Nicotine and cannabis wastes are pharmaceutical waste

Because nicotine and cannabis wastes are pharmaceutical waste, businesses must determine if their facility meets the definition of a health care facility. While you may not think of your business as a health care facility, you may still meet the definition of one.

You are:

  • A health care facility if:
    You sell or distribute pharmaceuticals (including nicotine or cannabis products). You must then determine if your facility needs to manage pharmaceutical wastes under the special requirements (WAC 173-303-555).
  • NOT a health care facility if:
    You manufacture, mix, or package nicotine or cannabis products. You must manage your nicotine and cannabis waste under the Dangerous Waste Regulations (Chapter 173-303 WAC).

Businesses must designate nicotine and cannabis waste

All businesses (health care facilities and non-health care facilities) must designate nicotine and cannabis waste in order to determine if it is a dangerous waste. We recommend using our designation checklist to help you with this process.

How your facility must then manage this waste is based on the requirements for your facility type (health care or non-health care facility).

Nicotine designation 

While most nicotine wastes are a P-listed acute hazardous waste (P075), there is an exception:

  • FDA-approved over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies (e.g., patches, gums, and lozenges) do not designate as an acute hazardous waste (P075). You must fully designate these wastes to determine if it is a dangerous waste. 

Cannabis designation 

Ensure you fully designate all cannabis wastes. It is possible for a waste to only designate as a Washington state-only dangerous waste. For example, any processed, concentrated cannabis waste with 10% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) or greater would designate as a state-only dangerous waste with the waste code WT02.

How to dispose of nicotine or cannabis waste

Do not:

  • Put it in the trash. 
  • Burn it.
  • Pour it down a drain, sink, or toilet.

Nicotine waste disposal

Your business may be able to send nicotine products for recycling. If legitimate recycling is not an option, follow the guidance for waste disposal options.

Cannabis waste disposal

Cannabis-containing waste is categorized as a controlled substance and must be disposed of in accordance with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) requirements. 

Health care facilities can manage dangerous waste controlled substances under a conditional exemption, which requires disposal at a permitted incinerator. A vendor authorized by the DEA to handle controlled substances may be required to transport and dispose of this waste. If health care facilities choose not to manage cannabis-containing waste under the conditional exemption, they must manage this waste as a dangerous waste pharmaceutical.

How to manage the components of a waste vape delivery system

An electronic nicotine- or cannabis-delivery system (i.e., e-cigarettes or vape) contains a battery, tank, or cartridge that delivers nicotine or cannabis as a vapor.

  • The batteries, if removable from the delivery system, can be managed as universal waste.
  • If the battery or cartridge is not removable, then the entire delivery system must be disposed of as dangerous waste.