The Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA) has thrown its support behind a new provincial regulation that would force producers of pharmaceuticals and sharps to be responsible for the proper management of their product waste.
The regulation aims to combat post-consumer waste of pharmaceuticals and sharps that enter the environment through landfills and sewers by requiring that they be collected and managed by producers. It would come into effect under the Environmental Protection Act on October 1, 2012, with a transition period of three months for certain requirements.
Pharmaceutical waste includes items such as prescription drugs and narcotics, including their respective containers. “Sharps” covers needles, syringes and lancets.
“It is a bold step for environmental policy in Ontario and should provide an effective platform for the safe management of these hazardous materials,” says Rob Cook, CEO of OWMA, in a letter to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) about the regulation proposal.
The proposed regulation only affects the residential sector in terms of post-consumer waste. It would not cover pharmaceutical and needle waste generated in industrial, commercial or institutional sectors.
According to the proposed regulation, product producers will need to develop a collection and management system that would meet minimum service standards to provide a safe, convenient and accessible collection network for consumers to drop off their pharmaceutical and needle waste.
“The OWMA also supports the proposed approach of accessibility targets,” it states in its letter to the MOE. “Most other material targets are based on tonnage or a percentage of collection, however, given the unique nature of pharmaceutical and sharps the outcome sought is understandable.”
For example, the regulation proposes that within one year of coming into force, there would be a number of collection locations in Ontario equivalent to 90 per cent of the number of accredited pharmacies under the Drug and Pharmacies Regulation Act where the pharmaceutical or sharp is supplied to consumers.
The OWMA is suggesting performance audits of other parameters including tonnage collected.
The only concern expressed by the OWMA is regarding the transportation of the post-consumer waste.
”OWMA has concerns about common carriers complying with the terms of their Environmental Compliance Approvals (ECAs) to transport pharmaceutical and biomedical wastes,” the association says in its letter to the MOE’s senior policy advisor.
The OWMA says it has seen a number of failures in regard to requirements under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulation, as well as failures to check what biomedical wastes are being recovered, how those wastes are packaged, and the handling and tracking requirements.
If the MOE requires additional resources to administer the new proposed regulation, the OWMA says it consider introducing a system of fees to cover the costs of enforcing the regulations on producers and their service providers.
The regulation for post-consumer waste of pharmaceuticals and sharps ends on September 30, 2012 under the Consolidated Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste Program Plan under the Waste Diversion Act, 2002.
Check out the full regulation proposal notice here.