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Management of Pharmaceutical Household Waste

Management of Pharmaceutical Household Waste:
Limiting Environmental Impacts of Unused or Expired Medicine

Pharmaceutical household waste from expired or unused medicine does not only offer zero therapeutic benefit, but also contributes to environmental pollution when disposed of via improper routes. Medicines discarded in sinks and flushed down toilets enter sewage waters and, if not filtered out, leak into aquatic systems. Disposal of unused or expired medicines via solid household waste can also result in pharmaceutical residues entering the environment if this waste is illegally dumped, or destined for landfills. In addition to environmental risks, unused or expired medicine not only constitutes wasted healthcare resources, but also presents a possible public health risk of accidental or intentional misuse and poisoning if extracted from waste bins. Preventing pharmaceutical household waste and ensuring the effective collection and environmentally sound treatment of unavoidable waste is thus an important policy objective. This report provides an overview of available data on pharmaceutical consumption and disposal practices across OECD countries, reviews existing collection schemes and provides recommendations to best prevent, collect and treat unused or expired medicines in order to avoid their leakage into the environment.