California City Makes Manufacturers, Retailers Responsible for Drug Disposal

Santa Cruz created a law that makes drug manufacturers and retailers responsible for safe drug disposal.

The California city of Santa Cruz has become the only US city to create an ordinance requiring drug manufacturers and retailers to take responsibility for safely disposing unwanted prescription drugs and sharps.

The Extended Producers Responsibility Ordinance also encourages the companies to do so in a way that has minimal impact on the environment and human health, according to a press release from the city. The law requires drug manufacturers and retailers to create new programs to rid these products, and will be in effect in more than 30 pharmacies in the city.

Pharmacies will need to present their plan to the city before it is implemented.

“Until now, our sharps and drug take back program was based on an environmental benefits analysis,” said City of Santa Cruz Environmental Compliance Manager Akin Babatola. “But the new ordinance brings a social justice component. Since 2007, the city has budgeted $7-10,000 annually in program costs to keep our rivers and ocean clean from these chemical wastes. From now on, we will have the manufacturers and distributors pick up the tab; the new ordinance incorporates the shared responsibility of the producer at the post-consumer stage of their products’ life cycle.”

Thus far, 9 other counties have created similar ordinances. All ordinances prohibit manufacturers and retailers from charging an additional fee for the disposal either during the sale or at collection.

“We are excited that local governments like the City of Santa Cruz are taking action to ensure the producers of medicines and needles will design and fund convenient collection systems so that these chemical and hazardous wastes are safely disposed of as they are in Canada,” said Heidi Sanborn, executive director of the National Stewardship Action Council. “We will continue to see cities and counties across the country adopt policies to mandate their participation, but our hope is that soon we can collaborate to find a national solution that we can all support.”