April 15, 2019

Proper Disposal of Pharmaceuticals Excludes Sewering

Now that the new pharmaceutical rule has been finalized, the prohibition on sewering hazardous waste pharmaceuticals will take effect in all states on August 21, 2019. [§266.505] While the rule is limited to regulating hazardous waste pharmaceuticals, EPA emphasizes that, as a best management practice, no waste pharmaceuticals should be sewered. [RO 14905]

As we discussed in our pharmaceuticals rule write-up, some pharmaceuticals are also DEA-controlled substances. DEA regulations promulgated in 2014 require a “nonretrievable” method of destruction of controlled substances and specifically do not include sewering as a disposal option. [79 FR 53520] Companies will be able to make use of the pharmaceutical rule’s conditional exemption in §266.506 to meet these requirements with the final method of disposal likely being incineration. [§266.506(b)(3)]

Additionally, multiple federal agencies have been coordinating consumer education efforts to prevent the sewering of pharmaceuticals by individuals. A much better alternative is to make use of pharmaceutical take-back and mail-back programs.


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This document addresses issues of a general nature related to the federal RCRA regulations. Persons evaluating specific circumstances dealing with the RCRA regulations should review state and local laws and regulations, which may be more stringent than federal requirements. In addition, the assistance of a qualified professional should be enlisted to address any site-specific circumstances.