County-Level Pharmaceutical Take-Back Programs May Be Spreading in California and Illinois

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Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest County, has proposed a pharmaceutical take-back ordinance that would require businesses to finance a local government program for disposal of unwanted medications and potentially hazardous medical products like needles and syringes. Under the draft ordinance, termed the “Los Angeles County Pharmaceuticals and Sharps Collection and Disposal Stewardship Ordinance,” certain manufacturers, producers, or distributors of covered medications and supplies would be responsible for designing, implementing and financing the collection program. At its March 22, 2016 meeting, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider a motion which, if passed, will direct that the Board consider the ordinance at its meeting on May 3, 2016.

The ordinance would initially cover the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. However, because the County serves as the Health Officer for 85 of the 88 cities within the County, those 85 cities need only pass a resolution to adopt the County ordinance.

Cook County, Illinois is considering adoption of a similar ordinance. Home to a total of 15 million people, Los Angeles and Cook Counties are the most populous counties in the United States.  Similar ordinances have already been adopted by several other jurisdictions in California.  The adoption of the Alameda County ordinance was challenged up to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose May 2015 decision to deny the pharmaceutical industry’s petition for certiorari opened the floodgates for extended producer responsibility laws throughout the country.  Other California counties, including Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo, continued to forge ahead with similar ordinances while the Alameda County case was appealed.

Tighter regulation of pharmaceutical disposal at the federal level is being proposed at the federal level as well. See our previous blog post on EPA’s proposed management standards for hazardous waste pharmaceutical rule here.

For more information about how the Los Angeles County ordinance may affect you, or if you are interested in submitting comments before the Ordinance is considered by the County Board of Supervisors on May 3, 2016, please contact Maureen Gorsen, Maya Grasse, or any of the other members of our Environment, Land Use & Natural Resources practice team.