Pharmaceutical wastes are classified as non-hazardous, hazardous, and medical wastes. To determine which category a pharmaceutical waste falls into, its chemical, physical, and toxicological characteristics are assessed and classified. For example, if a pharmaceutical company generates highly reactive waste (e.g. perchlorates, diazo and azo compounds), it is classified as hazardous waste and requires specific handling such as lab pack services. In order to ensure compliance with federal regulations, therefore, generators need to know what category their waste falls into.
Hazardous Pharmaceutical Wastes
An expired or discarded pharmaceutical may be considered hazardous waste in California if it exhibits one of the four following hazardous characteristics: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity. RCRA listed wastes are also considered hazardous. Unused commercial chemicals in pharmaceuticals are categorized under the P and U lists. This includes chemicals that are no longer needed, are expired or off-specification, or spill residues. Listed hazardous pharmaceutical wastes include nicotine, epinephrine, nitroglycerin, and more. For a waste to be listed, it must meet the following criteria:
- The waste must contain one of the chemicals on the P List or U list
- The chemical in the waste must be unused
- The chemical in the waste must be in the form of a commercial chemical product