Responsible Disposal of Unwanted Medicines and Sharps

Factsheet - ISSN 1198-712X   -   Copyright King's Printer for Ontario
Agdex#: 661/400
Publication Date: 07/05
Order#: 05-051
Last Reviewed: 28 September 2015
History: Original Factsheet
Written by: Kim Klotins - Antimicrobial Resistance Specialist/OMAFRA; Craig Richardson - Animal Care Specialist/OMAFRA; Stewart Sweeney - Environmental Management Specialist/OMAFRA

Table of Contents

This Factsheet was developed to provide producers with the resources they need to address the issue of responsible disposal of unwanted livestock medicines and sharps. Responsible disposal of unwanted medicines and sharps is recommended in the Livestock Medicines Manuals1 (including the Swine Medicines Manual2) and in Worksheet #6 of the Environmental Farm Plan3.

This Factsheet is complementary to Factsheet 05-053, Safe On-Farm Storage of Unwanted Medicines and Sharps. The charts on the back of these Factsheets are useful to you when they are displayed in a prominent location such as a bulletin board or refrigerator where medicines are kept (strip magnets with adhesive on one side can be placed on this side of the Factsheet). We recommend that you laminate this Factsheet to keep information from fading and to make it easier to keep clean.

This Factsheet will remind you and your staff about what to do with unwanted medicines and sharps after you have stored them safely. Write the contact information for commercial medical waste disposal companies and medical waste transportation companies on the lines provided at the bottom of this page.

For information on commercial medical waste disposal or transport companies, please contact your veterinarian or check the yellow pages under "courier services" and "disposal companies." Make sure the transport company has a Ministry of Environment Certificate of Approval allowing it to transport biomedical or hazardous waste. Also check what storage containers are acceptable for transport.

1Livestock Medicines Manuals are provided when you participate in a Livestock Medicines Education Program offered by Ridgetown College. For details about this program, phone: 1-877-480-9992 or see the Livestock Medicines Education Program web site.

2The Swine Medicines Manual is available to those who take the Swine Medicines Course offered by Ontario Pork. For details about this program, phone: 1-877-ONT-PORK (668-7675) or see the Ontario Pork web site.

3For information about the Environmental Farm Plan, phone the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association at 519-826-4214 or see the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association web site.

How Unwanted Medicines and Sharps Can Affect Your Family, Employees and the Public

  • Workplace injuries or illness can result from handling of these wastes.
  • Unwanted needles may be available to other users.
  • Unwanted medicines may be used inappropriately in people or on animals.
  • Unwanted medicines can contribute to antimicrobial resistant infections.
  • Waste can enter and impact:
    • the farm water supply
    • creeks, rivers and lakes
    • town and city drinking water supplies
    • recreational waters

Where to Dispose of Them

Municipal landfills

  • However, not all landfills accept unwanted medicines and sharps.
  • Landfills do not separate these wastes and target them for special disposal.

Your veterinarian

  • Note that not all veterinarians accept this waste.
  • Biosecurity protocols for safe return must be established with your veterinarian.

Commercial disposal companies:

  • Provide safe storage containers
  • Provide pick-up services
  • Promote biosecurity through sterilization
  • Autoclave unwanted sharps
  • Incinerate unwanted medicines and vaccines, and other medical waste
  • Eliminate environmental contamination
  • Significantly reduce waste to landfill
  • Charge a fee for this service

Where Not to Dispose of Them

  • In long-term storage on the farm
  • Buried on the farm
  • In burn barrels
  • In manure piles/straw/hay
  • On public property
  • In household garbage or recycling bins
  • On other farms

Why Proper Disposal Matters

  • Long-term storage creates unknown hazards as labels and product deteriorate.
  • Burial can lead to soil and water contamination by medicines.
  • Some medicine containers can explode when heated.
  • Sharps can take years to deteriorate in manure piles.
  • Sharps thrown away in manure, straw or hay can stab handlers or can be eaten by animals.
  • Waste dumped on public property is pollution.
  • Discarded medicines can be a source of environmental contamination from landfills.
  • Unwanted sharps can injure municipal workers or spread disease.
  • Sharps are not recyclable.
  • Unwanted medicine containers are not recyclable because of drug residues.
  • Sharing unwanted medicines promotes irresponsible use of medicines in livestock.

Improper Disposal is Not Biosecurity!

Responsible Disposal of Unwanted Medicines and Sharps is up to You!

Disposal of unwanted medicines and sharps is not covered by provincial regulations. However, you are required to prevent environmental contamination:

"No person shall discharge into the natural environment any contaminant, and no person responsible for a source of contaminant shall permit the discharge into the natural environment of any contaminant from the source of contaminant, in an amount, concentration or level in excess of that prescribed by the regulations [Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.E.19, Part II, Section 6, Subsection (1)]. Exception: Subsection (1) does not apply to animal wastes disposed of in accordance with both normal farming practices and the regulations made under the Nutrient Management Act, 2002, c.4, s.62 (1)."

Table 1. Contact Information.

Commercial Transporter  
Commercial Disposal Company  

Related Links

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300