Drug Take-Back Program Goes Statewide

In October, Governor Brown signed SB 212 into law. The bill, authored by Senator Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and Assemblymembers Ting (D-San Francisco) and Gray (D-Merced), establishes the first statewide,comprehensive, producer-funded take-back program to provide safe and convenient disposal options for home-generated pharmaceutical drugs and sharps waste.

Pharmaceuticals have been identified as an emerging contaminant of low concern for the San Francisco Bay but remain a priority for continued monitoring, as the Bay’s population continues to grow and more and newer pharmaceuticals reach the market. Since pharmaceuticals get into the Bay through discharges of treated wastewater and through improper disposal of unwanted medication in the trash or down the toilet, the best way to reduce pharmaceutical levels in the Bay is through proper disposal. 

How improper disposal of medicines may end up in waterways and our drinking water sources. Source: US EPA Office of Water.


As a result, the Estuary Blueprint prioritizes the expansion of drug take-back programs throughout the San Francisco Estuary as part of the action to address emerging contaminants (Action 25). Drug take-back programs are rooted in the idea of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which shifts financial and management responsibility for products at their end of life back to the producer or manufacturer, with government oversight. 

The California Product Stewardship Council (CPSC), one of the owners of Action 25, seeks to shift California’s product waste management toward producer responsibility as a way of reducing public costs and improving environmental sustainability. CPSC worked with cities and counties throughout the San Francisco Estuary and the state to pass ordinances to establish drug take-back programs.


San Francisco Supervisor (now Mayor) London Breed and the Department of Public Health’s Chief Pharmacist Dave Woods demonstrate how San Francisco’s new drug take-back program works on October 19, 2017 (Photo source: SFEP).


On the passage of SB 212, CPSC Senior Advisor Heidi Sanborn stated, “This is a public health and safety bill whose time has come and we are sincerely grateful to the Legislature and Governor Brown for making Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) the law.”

With the creation of a statewide law, Task 25-3 is considered complete.

TASK 25-3: Support pharmaceutical CECs reduction efforts, like the Alameda County Safe Drug Disposal program and similar ordinances. Expand to other counties around the Bay and Delta.
Work with counties to develop unified regional messaging to promote these ordinances.

BY 2020: Pass three additional ordinances in Bay and Delta counties.