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EPA Proposes Rules on Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal, Haz Labeling

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing two new hazardous waste rules, one involving pharmaceutical waste disposal and the other hazardous waste mismanagement.

The proposed pharmaceutical rule would ban healthcare facilities from flushing hazardous waste pharmaceuticals down the sink and toilet. The Washington-based agency projects the rule could prevent the dumping of more than 6,400 tons of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals annually, according to a news release.

The rule would make drinking and surface water safer by reducing the amount of pharmaceuticals entering U.S. waterways. It would reduce the burden on healthcare workers and pharmacists working in healthcare facilities through a specific set of regulations for the facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and retail stores with pharmacies and reverse distributors that generate hazardous waste, the agency said.

The proposed generator rule aims to improve labeling of hazardous waste, and emergency planning and preparedness. The agency said the rule would improve the safety of facilities, employees and the general public. It also would provide greater flexibility in how facilities and employees manage their hazardous waste while making the regulations easier to understand.

“These rules provide businesses with certainty and the flexibility they need to successfully operate in today’s marketplace,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “The proposals will improve the safety and health of our communities by providing clear, flexible and protective hazardous waste management standards.”

The EPA solicited public comment on improving hazardous waste management from states, healthcare facilities, retailers, facilities generating hazardous waste and other key stakeholders. The agency will accept public comments on the proposal for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

Last month the EPA issued two other proposed rules affecting the waste industry, specifically aiming to reduce methane emissions from municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills.

Under the agency’s proposals, new, modified and existing landfills would begin collecting and controlling landfill gas at emission levels almost one-third lower than current requirements. The new proposals would strengthen a previously proposed rule for new landfills from 2014, and would update the agency’s 1996 emission guidelines for existing landfills.

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