According to the General Law for Prevention and Integral Management of Wastes, a hazardous waste is any solid, semisolid, liquid or gaseous material whose owner has disposed of in containers and it can be assessed or undergo treatment. It also contains at least one of the CRETIB properties (corrosive, reactive, explosive, toxic, flammable, biological and infectious, acronym in Spanish).
Some of the Official Mexican Standards for the proper identification of wastes are listed below:
The Office of the Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Sustainability, assisted by the Department of Environmental Management and Operational Safety, is currently developing a program for the proper handling and disposal of hazardous waste from UANL entities, such as fluorescent lamps, ballasts, chemicals, and expired medications, in order to comply with all applicable regulations. This program aims to classify, store, and manage waste transportation and final disposal in collaboration with companies certified by federal authorities, such as the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT). Therefore, procedure guidelines on waste classification and collection have been delivered to all UANL entities for properly improving waste handling. These guidelines are disclosed as follows:
- Procedure Guidelines on Internal Collection of Hazardous Waste in UANL Undergraduate Schools.
- Procedure Guidelines on Classification, Collection, and Disposal of Biological and Infectious Waste in UANL Entities.
- Procedure Guidelines on Classification of Hazardous Waste in UANL Undergraduate Schools.
Characterization of expired chemicals that have been disposed of during the period January 2015 – June 2016.
Graph 1. Characterization of Expired Chemicals
Biological and Infectious Waste
Biological and infectious waste is any residual material from health care services containing agents that can cause harmful effects on human health and the environment. According to the NOM-087-SEMARNAT-SSA1-2002 standard, biological and infectious waste is classified into five types: blood, infectious cell cultures and strains, pathological waste, non-anatomical waste, and sharps.
Today, UANL has implemented programs for the handling and management of biological-infectious waste at the Schools of Chemistry, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Veterinary Medicine and the Medical Technical High School, where a certified authority collects and treats it in compliance with the abovementioned standard. 97% of the waste from these UANL entities is non-anatomical waste (disposable gloves, medical material with blood, and disposable containers with blood) as shown in Graph 2.
Graph 2. Characterization of Biological-Infectious Waste: Period January 2015 – June 2016
During 2016, fourteen UANL entities began proceedings to determine their level of waste generation (micro, small, and large generators) for the proper management of hazardous waste at their facilities, according to the current environmental provisions.
Regarding the temporary storage of hazardous waste, small and large generators must have a temporary warehouse with the following technical specifications: good natural or artificial ventilation, explosion-proof lighting, gutter and spill containment systems, and others as established by the General Law for Prevention and Integral Management of Wastes.
Among the UANL academic entities that have developed a systematic environmental commitment, the School of Chemistry has distinguished itself since 1994 when it successfully implemented a plan for hazardous waste management under the applicable environmental law, which earned it the Environmental Quality Certification of the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) three consecutive periods: 2010-2012, 2012-2014, and 2014-2016. (http://www.fcq.uanl.mx/sustentabilidad-fcq-uanl/)
Expired medications are another type of hazardous waste from homes and workplaces. According to the current environmental provisions, expired medications should be disposed of by companies with federal authorization from SEMARNAT and SCT because these companies have qualified staff and equipment to take the necessary safety measures for waste transportation, treatment, and final disposition.
The Ministry of Health, SEMARNAT, the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS), the Office of Sanitary Promotion and Regulation of the Health Department of Nuevo Leon, and the National System for the Management of Container and Medication Waste (SINGREM) are working together to initiate a program for the properly environmental management of expired medications. These are disposed of in containers at drugstores or pharmacies to undergo trituration and final disposition in co-processing cement kilns, which uses thermal decomposition to produce energy from waste material.
Over the past years, UANL has helped the Health Department of Nuevo Leon implement a project of expired medication collection and final disposition within the metropolitan area of Monterrey. As of today, UANL has installed several containers at the ‘Q.F.B. Emilia Vasquez Farias’ University Pharmacy of the School of Chemistry, the Health Service Unit, the University Hospital Pharmacy, and the Medical Technical High School. The expired medication is then taken by Health Department staff to a collection center where is separated by therapeutic class and dosage form. Lastly, a certified authority transports it to its final disposition. From January to June 2016, 442 kilograms of expired medication were collected at the abovementioned university entities.