Main Content

Pharmaceutical waste webinar

Pharmaceutical waste webinar

ANMF (Vic Branch) is organising a webinar for members on pharmaceutical waste and its appropriate disposal.

Among the speakers will be Grace Wong, founder of Pharmacists for the Environment Australia. Ms Wong became interested in pharmaceutical waste – and its impact on the health of people and the planet – when she was working for Calcutta Rescue, a not-for-profit in India, where she saw firsthand the ‘environmental and human health consequences of pharmaceutical pollution’.

Ms Wong will speak on the importance of appropriate pharmaceutical waste disposal from an environmental and public health perspective.

The webinar will also cover the regulatory and guidance expectations presented by various governing bodies, and present an overview of existing tools for supporting the transition to pharmaceutical waste bins, what options exist, and what challenges have been faced and overcome in introducing them.

VicTAG tools

Many nurses and midwives assume the contents of sharps bins are incinerated. This is not the case. In Victoria, the contents of sharps bins are hammermilled and chlorinated, which means liquid contents are flushed into water with the solid residue ultimately ending up in a prescribed landfill.

Research conducted by Monash University in 2018 detected dozens of pharmaceutical compounds in aquatic insects living in Victorian creeks. It also found that the chemicals can then move further up the food chain with unknown effects on native animals.

Further compounding the issue, a 2021 ANMF Health and Environmental Sustainability Conference (HESC) poll revealed that only 30 per cent of respondents were even supplied with a fixed-lid pharmaceutical disposal bin. This is in spite of substantial regulatory requirements for pharmaceutical waste disposal.

To address these and other issues, the Victorian Therapeutics Advisory Group (VicTAG) Pharmaceutical Waste Advisory Group, of which ANMF (Vic Branch) was a member, developed a framework and a set of pharmaceutical waste disposal tools to support clinicians and give hospitals confidence to revise their protocols and bins. These tools were released in December 2020.

(Prior to the VicTAG project, the Branch worked with the Department of Health in the Waste Education in Healthcare project, which also released a suite of waste segregation resources, among them the waste decision tree, a comprehensive and helpful tool for departments.)

The VicTAG framework clearly states that it is the health service’s responsibility to ensure the disposal process they choose is in accordance with the regulatory requirements. Not being provided with appropriate pharmaceutical disposal bins results in significantly high incidences of inappropriate disposal of medication, including S8 and S4D.

Delegates’ request

Delegates at the 2021 virtual ANMF Delegates Conference requested that the Branch urgently lobby State Government to require health services to implement the environmentally responsible and comprehensive pharmaceutical waste disposal schemes.

Spearheaded by ANMF (Vic Branch) Environmental Health Officer Ros Morgan, the webinar is part of the Branch’s response to this request, bringing together regulatory bodies, various stakeholders and healthcare workers including nurses, midwives, pharmacists and hospital management with the aim of securing a commitment to address the issue.

The pharmaceutical waste webinar will be held from 11.30am–12.45pm on on Thursday 9 June. Registrations are open now.