It is possible to mention some important environmental risks that occur when this type of waste is not disposed of correctly. The disposal of some types of medicines by the end consumer can cause contamination of soil and water resources by being destined together with household waste or by dumping in the sink, reaching the water treatment plants.

Thinking about the impact on public health and the environment, the Ministry of Health and the Environment proposed decree nº 10.388, of June 5, 2020, which becomes effective 180 days after publication. It determines that the drug industries carry out the reverse logistics of expired or disused medicines after the disposal carried out by the final consumer.

This is the new challenge that industries are facing this year: investing in a reverse logistics system to comply with the law. Pharmaceutical companies will have to define the collection points where consumers can dispose of medicines. In addition, it is responsible for transporting, storing, properly segregating each type of waste and making the correct destination.

With the new decree, the pharmaceutical industries face great challenges, as there are several points that need to be carefully considered to ensure the efficiency of the reverse logistics of medicines, including:

1. Consciousness

One of the main points that should be mentioned is the awareness of the final consumer. People need to be informed about new expired or out-of-use drug collection points so that waste can return to the pharmaceutical industry and be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

This is a complex process that needs to be thought out strategically. It is necessary to make the population aware of the risks of throwing medicines in the sink or disposing of them with household waste. Through communication work, it will be possible to collect medicines efficiently to carry out reverse logistics, ensuring the correct destination of this type of waste.

2. Establish a collection system

It will be necessary to establish specific collection points to ensure that the drugs have the correct destination. For this, it is necessary to carry out a strategic study that defines an efficient collection system, considering the place of receipt, either through the drugstores or trucks that carry out this work and take it to the temporary storage points. Added to this is the need to have appropriate vehicles from a specialized company to collect and transport waste, since certain drugs are considered hazardous waste.

3. Segregate the materials

Upon receiving the drug residues collected through reverse logistics, the responsible industries must promote the environmentally appropriate disposal of these residues, observing the applicable legislation that also determines the obligation and rigor to treat the primary contact packaging with the residue and package inserts, as if it were the medicine itself.

4. Invest

The decree requires several actions by the pharmaceutical industries to carry out reverse materials logistics. All specifications require high investments for companies. That is exactly why companies are looking to outsource the service. When hiring a specialized company, the pharmaceutical industries are no longer concerned with waste management and remain fully focused on their core business. In addition, waste management is a complex service that requires specific know-how, expertise and equipment to carry out reverse logistics and final disposal efficiently.

5. Check

The point is that it is not enough to just do the reverse logistics of medicines as required by law. It is also essential to document the entire process in order to present them to Organs competent bodies in case of inspection. For this, it is necessary to track the material and have software that documents each process carried out with the waste.

Hiring a specialized company, in this case, comes into play again. Otherwise, companies will need to create new departments to reverse drug logistics and invest in control systems for legal and environmental compliance.

Ambipar is a Brazilian multinational leader in environmental management. It has expertise in reverse logistics to meet the new demands of the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, it recently acquired two legal and environmental compliance software companies focused on artificial intelligence that assist with waste documentation and traceability. In addition, it has about 36 monitoring cameras to monitor the process, ensuring 100% traceability.