Establishing Statewide Take-Back Systems for Drugs and Sharps

California’s lack of options for residents to safely and conveniently dispose of both medications (prescription and over-the-counter) and sharps (syringes, pen needles, etc.) products long posed public health, occupational safety, and environmental problems. Environmentalists, local governments, public health organizations and drug and sharps manufacturers debated the issue in the legislature for more than a decade without success.

SYASL worked with the California Product Stewardship Council on a years-long strategy that resulted in the enactment of SB 212 (Jackson, Ting, and Gray) in 2018. The landmark legislation established statewide take-back systems for both drugs and sharps.

Previous efforts were aggressively opposed by manufacturers, who even sued Alameda County over their local ordinance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite these tensions, our team, in coordination with the authors, brought key stakeholders to the negotiating table and worked collaboratively toward a legislative solution to a decades-old problem.

Through an extended producer responsibility approach, which requires producers to fund, implement, and manage the end-of-life process for the precuts they create, the statewide program provides for the safe and convenient collection and disposal of home-generated sharps and pharmaceutical waste.

SYASL’s strategic lobbying and negotiating efforts allowed California to be first in the nation to establish a program that addresses both drugs and sharps. After years of stalemate, SB 212 (Jackson, Ting, and Gray) was supported by a broad coalition of environmentalists, local governments, manufacturers, and others, and was ultimately sent to the Governor’s desk with remarkable bipartisan support.