NCDA&CS seeking federal approval
for pharmaceutical disposal program
North Carolinians will have a new option for disposing of their unused pharmaceuticals if a program proposed by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services receives federal approval.
Staff members with the department’s Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program have asked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to allow the program to collect unused prescription drugs and other medications alongside unwanted pesticides. The department submitted its application in October. DEA approval is necessary because the program might collect controlled substances.
“Our department pioneered the safe collection and disposal of pesticides back in 1980,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “By slightly modifying our program, we can also become a national model for helping citizens safely get rid of unused medications. At a time when concern about medications ending up in our nation’s waters is growing, this program could be a great benefit to our state.”
Derrick Bell, manager of the Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program, said the department works with N.C. Cooperative Extension and household hazardous waste programs to hold pesticide collection events in every county in the state at least once every two years. “People drop off their unused pesticides, we collect them and a hazardous waste contractor incinerates them,” he said.
Under the proposal, disposing of pharmaceuticals would work much the same way, Bell said. People would drop their medications into 55-gallon drums filled with a solvent that would render the drugs unusable. The hazardous waste company would take the materials to a licensed incinerator. If approved, this model also could be used by local household hazardous waste programs, he said.
The department could include pharmaceuticals in the PDAP at little additional cost, Bell said. The PDAP has collected 2 million pounds of pesticides since it began in 1980. The department has been working with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, other state agencies, the DEA, hazardous materials experts and the pharmaceutical industry since late 2006 to develop ways to promote responsible disposal of unused medications and similar products.
Bell said pharmaceutical disposal initiatives aren’t widespread. Several states, including Maine, Washington and Wisconsin, are in various stages of setting up programs.