Take-back scheme for expired medicines needed, EPA reports, given potential for environmental pollution

Date released: Jun 25 2014


Take-back scheme for expired medicines needed, EPA reports, given potential for environmental pollution

The EPA has today released the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan for the years 2014-2020. The plan sets out the priorities to be pursued over the next six years and beyond to improve the management of Ireland’s hazardous waste.

  Dr Jonathan Derham, EPA Programme Manager, said:

“Society has an important role to play to reduce the risks posed by hazardous waste to human health and the environment. We need improved collection and treatment of hazardous wastes from households and small businesses.  In addition, product manufacturers and distributers of products that are hazardous when discarded need to take a greater role in the life-cycle management of these wastes, including prevention.”

The plan makes twenty seven recommendations.  Key issues identified include:

  • Hazardous waste collection facilities need to be provided by local authorities for householders and small businesses. 
  • Local authorities need to be resourced to provide these services. 
  • Given their potential for environmental pollution, a take-back scheme for expired household medicine is needed. 
  • Farm hazardous waste should be collected using take-back schemes. 
  • Improved collection of hazardous waste is required for a number of smaller priority sources including vehicle servicing garages, ports and harbours, and healthcare risk waste from individuals. 
  • Sites where hazardous waste was disposed of in the past should be identified, assessed and, where necessary, remediated.
     
    A copy of the revised National Hazardous Waste Management Plan (2014-2020) can be accessed from the EPA website.  Related links are listed below.

Notes to Editor:

1. National Hazardous Waste Management Plan:

The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for developing the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan under Section 26 of the Waste Management Act 1996 as amended.  The first such Plan was published in 2001 and was replaced by a second Plan published in 2008. This third plan is a revision of the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan 2008-2012 and will cover a period of six years from the date of publication.

The Environmental Protection Agency will promote and co-ordinate the Plan’s implementation, and will continue to take responsibility for:

  • chairing the National Waste Prevention Committee with oversight of the Plan’s implementation;
  • fulfilling specific implementation roles as identified in the Plan; and
  • monitoring and reporting on the Plan’s implementation.


The following is a summary of the revised Plan’s recommendations:

Prevention

Prevention projects to reduce the generation of hazardous waste in certain priority sectors (pharmachem, agriculture, healthcare, households, publishing & printing and transport) should continue to be led by the EPA under the National Waste Prevention Programme. Prevention initiatives should be incorporated into Regional Waste Management Plans and the Green Public Procurement Action Plan should provide for the substitution and reduction in use of hazardous materials. Waste characterisation studies of certain waste streams are also recommended to evaluate the reduction of the hazardous content of such wastes.

Collection

A comprehensive and accessible network of local drop-off facilities for householders and small businesses is recommended to tackle the problem of “unreported” hazardous waste. Enforcement activities should continue to focus on issues such as unauthorised burning of waste oil in order to increase collection and prevent environmental pollution. The potential for producer responsibility obligations for a number of hazardous waste streams should be given priority consideration.

Self-sufficiency

The objective of moving towards increased self-sufficiency and minimising exports continues to be recommended, where it is strategically/environmentally advisable, and technically and economically feasible. If Ireland were to become self-sufficient, suitable hazardous waste treatment options would be required.


Regulation

Consolidation of waste legislation and cooperation in enforcement is recommended. A review of waste licensing/permitting legislation is recommended in order to establish a proportionate regulatory mechanism, including relief, to facilitate collection, transport and temporary storage of certain hazardous wastes from small sources pending proper treatment.

Legacy issues

Old waste disposal sites, especially those that to a significant extent may have involved the disposal of hazardous waste, should continue to be managed (i.e. identified, risk assessed and regularised) in accordance with the Code of Practice drawn up by the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement and relevant legislation, where required.

North-south cooperation

The revised Plan recommends that any proposals for hazardous waste recovery/disposal infrastructure should take all-island considerations into account for capacity planning purposes. Cooperation between appropriate authorities on both sides of the border concerning hazardous waste management issues should be explored.

Guidance and awareness

A key aspect of proper hazardous waste management is guidance and awareness.  During implementation of the second Plan, the EPA developed prevention resources for certain sectors.  Such resources should continue to be disseminated (e.g. the Green Healthcare Programme). Local authorities and relevant sectoral organisations should also avail of appropriate media (e.g. social media) to inform the public and small businesses of hazardous waste collection services.

Implementation

Policy makers, regulators, product producers, importers, generators and holders of hazardous waste all play a vital role in ensuring that the generation of such materials is minimised, and the materials are collected and treated correctly in accordance with the waste hierarchy.

Each of the 27 recommendations in the revised Plan has a responsible body or bodies identified. The principal implementing bodies are the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the local authorities, along with facility operators and holders of hazardous waste.

 

2. Related links:

Antibiotics in water: - http://erc.epa.ie/safer/iso19115/displayISO19115.jsp?isoID=272

Householders’ Guides:

Farming:

Further information: Annette Cahalane/Niamh Hatchell/ Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie