ARLINGTON, Va. — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has joined other retail trade associations in commenting on proposed updates to the Environmental Protection Agency’s waste management regulations.
Those rules could affect the way retailers handle their unsold consumer products and pharmaceuticals.
NACDS — together with the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the Food Marketing Institute, the National Grocers Association and the National Retail Federation — argued that the EPA’s proposed rule changes would not go far enough in addressing the challenges retailers would face in complying with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
RCRA applies mainly to large-scale manufacturing plants that generate more significant quantities of hazardous wastes, but EPA also applies it to the very small percentage of unsold consumer products that may be recycled, reused or otherwise discarded from a retail store.
The EPA’s proposed rule changes would address some issues retailers have with RCRA. One proposed change, for example, would relax the requirements for managing empty pharmaceutical containers. The EPA has also solicited comments on potential amendments to the heightened “acute” hazardous waste classification given to smoking cessation products, like low-concentration nicotine patches, gums and lozenges, which subjects retailers to additional in-store requirements.
“This is an important step forward, and the retail associations welcome the opportunity to respond to these long-awaited proposals,” said Sue Pifer, vice president of compliance at RILA. “Although portions of the proposals may offer some relief, the suggested frameworks fall short of easing the burden on retailers who want to manage unsold products in a more sustainable fashion, rather than discarding potentially useful or recyclable items.
“The retail associations again emphasize in their comments that most unsold consumer products and pharmaceuticals are not ‘wastes’, due to the fact that many are suitable for re-shelving, donation, recycling, liquidation or shipment back to vendors for credit. We look forward to continuing our work with the EPA to further the agency’s understanding of the unique challenges faced by the retail sector in reverse distribution.”
In 2014, RILA led a coalition of retailers to explain the challenges of complying with RCRA, and some of the issues raised by the coalition were addressed in the proposed rules, released by EPA in September 2015.