Pharmaceutical waste includes:

  • waste medicines
  • packaging contaminated with medicines
  • items used to handle and administer medicines, eg medicine-contaminated syringe bodies.

For cytotoxic and cytostatic medicines, and items that are contaminated by them, see the guidance for cytotoxic and cytostatic waste. Cytotoxic and cytostatic medicines are medicines that are either: toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction.

Cytotoxic and cytostatic waste

Disposing of pharmaceutical waste

Waste drugs and other pharmaceutical products that, unless made safe, could be hazardous to anyone who comes into contact with them are classified as clinical waste.

You must complete waste transfer notes for any waste that leaves your site. You must keep copies of all waste transfer notes for two years.

You must ensure that your waste is stored, handled, recycled or disposed of safely and legally. You must comply with your waste responsibilities, known as your duty of care.

Duty of Care: Your waste responsibilities

Pharmaceutical waste must be made safe.

In Northern Ireland, pharmaceutical waste must be made safe by clinical waste incineration at an authorised incinerator.

In Scotland, pharmaceutical waste which is classed as cytotoxic or cytostatic must be disposed of by clinical waste incineration at an authorised incinerator. Other pharmaceutical waste can be made safe either by clinical waste incineration or by other appropriate methods.

Containers for pharmaceutical waste

Place all pharmaceutical waste in rigid leak-proof containers.

Store liquid wastes separately in appropriate individual leak-proof containers to prevent mixing.

Your containers should be clearly labelled by the manufacturer to identify that they are suitable for and contain pharmaceutical waste.

Your waste contractor should be able to advise or supply you with a container that meets the relevant requirements.

SEE ALSO: Laboratory waste, Cytostatic and cytotoxic waste, Guidance for the Healthcare sector

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