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How to Best Manage Pharmaceutical Waste

pharmaceuticalsAs the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry grows, its waste generated grows, too — as does the market for medical waste management.

Proper waste management is key to minimizing environmental impact and reducing liability and risk associated with hazardous waste, writes environmental services provider Terrapure Environmental in a HazMat Management column.

“Proper waste management in the pharmaceutical sector involves more than just the recycling or destruction and disposal of materials,” said Todd Smith, vice president of environmental solutions for Central Canada at Terrapure. “It is critically important to be able to monitor and track waste every step of the way, beginning at the customer’s site, through transportation and ultimately the final disposal at a regulated waste management facility.’’

GPS technology allows companies to monitor waste — from storage in bottles to drums, to when it reaches the waste management facility and is ultimately destroyed, Terrapure Environmental says.

Additionally, leading waste management companies have introduced barcoding technology that allows for further monitoring and reporting on waste.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers and retailers are also facing increasing regulations at the state and federal level related to how they manage waste.

Last March, Massachusetts lawmakers approved legislation that requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to finance and manage safe disposal of unwanted medications, making it the first state in the US to mandate drug take-back programs.

Since 2012, seven counties on the West Coast — six in California (Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Marin) and one in Washington (King) — passed laws that shift the cost burden for collecting and properly managing prescription drugs to drug makers.

The EPA is also expected to finalize a pharmaceutical waste rule this year that sets regulations on how healthcare facilities, including retail stores and pharmacies, manage and dispose of pharmaceutical waste.

As the amount of medical waste grows, and governments become more involved in regulating the management of this waste stream, the medical waste management market will also grow at a compound annual growth rate of 3.4 percent between 2015 and 2023 , says a Transparency Market Research report.

The market has only a few large companies and features the dominance of small- and medium-sized companies, which collectively account for more than half of the overall market, the report says.

Stericycle, the largest waste management company in the US was the only company to have a major share in the market; it accounted for a share of 23.2 percent in 2014. Small-scale medical waste management companies in the country, however, collectively accounted for 53.1 percent in the market in the same year.

Thus, the acquisition of smaller companies holds huge promise for large companies and new entrants, allowing them an easy way of enhancing the operational efficiencies and expand both consumer base and service capabilities in the US in the coming years, says TMR.


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