July 1, 2019
close up view of many different red and yellow pills


With no previous programs established to regulate the management of hazardous waste, a national drugstore chain was at a loss on how to tackle the challenges of setting up a national program to achieve hazardous waste compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And while this drugstore was new to compliance regulations, US Ecology was not. This drugstore chose to partner with US Ecology for our expertise in hazardous waste management and achieved compliance, and has enjoyed peace of mind throughout its 23 state footprint for the past six years.


Hazardous and non-hazardous waste regulations established by the EPA are complicated. Layer in additional treatment and disposal regulations for pharmaceutical drugs from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as well as intricate state-specific rules, and suddenly the task of creating a national compliance program from scratch seems impossible. That’s how one national drugstore chain felt. For years, they managed to get by without any uniform program in place. But, as State regulators and EPA continued to crack down and fine other retailers within the industry for non-compliance, they knew they had to act.


After a rigorous request for proposal evaluation, US Ecology was awarded the opportunity to pilot a compliance program in one state for the drugstore. Within a few short months, the program was successfully implemented in retail stores and distribution centers. The US Ecology customer service team helped assemble and distribute custom waste storage kits for each location; one for the back of the store, and one for inside each pharmacy. Initial trainings were performed by US Ecology certified technicians, until the drugstore’s managers were confident enough to continue on with internal trainings as needed.

The customized program built for the drugstore’s compliance success also included unique paperwork processes. Technological safeguards were added to US Ecology’s mobile information management system, and served as a double check against anticipated waste totals. If a store failed to produce waste in either their back of store or pharmacy area, the technology would alert the manager or pharmacist of potential mismanagement or disposal of hazardous or pharmaceutical waste within the store. This allowed the national chain to easily identify potential noncompliant personnel and rectify the problem resuming their goal of protecting both human health and the environment from improperly disposed of waste.

The success of the one-state pilot program was impressive. The drugstore saw significant cost savings, achieved state-wide compliance, as well as a peace of mind from the customized solutions US Ecology had put in place. They chose to expand the program over time to an additional 22 states.

As US Ecology rolled out compliance solutions from one state to the next, the dedicated customer service professionals continued to customize and strive for continuous improvement on solutions we offered the retailer. The environmental professionals at US Ecology dedicated to the account pushed to develop newer, better ways for the drugstore to manage its waste.

An example of innovation to better service the drugstore chain came from US Ecology’s technical services team. Due to the potentially dangerous nature of a product, the team developed a custom process to dismantle battery operated lighters at the time of service. By identifying a safe way to remove lithium batteries from the cartridge,  US Ecology trained technicians were able to segregate the waste for disposal or recycling, reducing stores’ generator status and overall costs each month. This process was also able to be kept separate from standard services, so a single invoice could be generated for only this process. This allowed the retailer to easily pass on the cost, incurred from the inadequate product, to the manufacturer or designated 3rd party.

US Ecology also assisted in the reduction of lab pack fees associated with removal of pharmaceutical compounding chemicals without NDC codes. By developing an identification list, the technicians servicing the stores were able to profile and remove the chemicals during routine services rather than requiring a separate lab pack pick-up. US Ecology also helped reduce the drugstore’s generator status by providing more sustainable options to recycle nicotine and ethyl alcohol in states that permitted it, resulting in significant cost savings for the retailer.


Once the entire chain was implemented, US Ecology serviced over 3,700 locations, with almost 15,000 annual pick-ups performed. During that time, the experienced technicians for US Ecology reported an on-time rate of 99%, and the drugstore’s corporate ESH team gave US Ecology a customer satisfaction rate exceeding 95%.

From day one, US Ecology made sure to deliver exceptional value and uncompromised compliance in every service performed for the retailer. We are honored to know the national chain chose to put their trust in our 65 years of experience delivering environmental solutions, and are proud to continue to help our partner to become more sustainable, reduce overall costs, and achieve peace of mind and compliance nationally.

Learn More

Do you need to implement a compliance program, but are unsure where to begin? Partnering with US Ecology as a single source for all hazardous and non-hazardous waste management solutions can help maximize company efficiencies, and result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings annually. Contact Vince Scheerer, Vice President of Business Development – National Programs, at vince.scheerer@usecology.com or (800) 592-5489 to learn how easy it is to establish or optimize your environmental compliance program today.