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.
Published on May 10, 2022