Pharmaceuticals are chemical formulations used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, therapy, or prevention of disease in humans or animals. A pharmaceutical becomes a waste when it can no longer be administered to a patient and must be discarded. Universal waste pharmaceuticals must be accumulated in a manner that prevents release. They must be placed in containers that remain closed, except to add or remove waste and the containers are to be labeled with the words “Universal Waste Pharmaceuticals.”

The container must be structurally sound, compatible with the waste, and lack evidence of leakage, spillage, or damage that could cause leakage under reasonably foreseeable circumstances.  If a container does not meet these conditions, it is to be overpacked in a container that does meet these conditions.  Incompatible pharmaceuticals must be segregated by adequate distance to prevent the contact of incompatible materials.  If a release of pharmaceuticals or component of pharmaceuticals occurs, the release must be immediately cleaned up and properly characterized for disposal.  Spill and clean-up waste cannot be managed as a Universal Waste- Pharmaceutical.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new rules for healthcare providers on handling hazardous waste pharmaceuticals on February 22, 2019.  A provision that prohibits disposing pharmaceuticals down the drain becomes effective nationally on and after August 21, 2019. The rules were enacted to protect drinking water and surface water. They are expected to reduce the amount of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals entering U.S. waterways by as much as 2,300 tons annually.

Environmental Health and Safety

108 - Auxiliary Program Center
4901 Evergreen Road
Dearborn, MI 48128
View on Map
Phone: 313-583-6679
Fax: 313-493-9161