Inmar Inc. | July 30, 2015

The hazardous-waste regulatory landscape in retail these days is about as easy to understand as the tax code. The rules are evolving at all levels — it can seem impossible to navigate regulations that can vary between the federal and state levels, and even at the county level in some states. If you're a retailer operating in more than one state, or even regionally where counties have their own versions, you know these headaches.

If that's not enough, the rules are changing constantly and noncompliance penalties are in the millions. To say it's a challenge to ensure complete compliance is probably the understatement of the year. The importance of avoiding huge fines is amplified by the thousands of products in the merchandise mix at one single corner drug store.

We all want to be responsible and do the right thing to protect the environment in the communities we serve, but I think we all wish it was a lot easier to do.

Knowing what has to be handled as hazardous waste when it's returned at retail, knowing the proper handling, documentation and required disposition is daunting. That's not just drugs — front-store products figure into the regulatory mix, too, such as batteries, small electronics, beauty products, household cleaning products... the list goes on and there's a lot to juggle.

To that end, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) is providing an opportunity to better understand the risks and resources for dealing with it all. CHPA is presenting a webinar titled "Hazardous Waste: Navigating the Regulatory Landscape and Retailer Mandates," led by Kristin Alstad, Inmar's Regional Regulatory Manager, Richard Sieg, Inmar Regulatory Counsel, and Kieran Callahan, Director of Business Development, UL Information & Insights. The webinar will be Aug. 18 at 1 p.m. EDT, to explain the current regulatory landscape, update you on recent and near-future developments, and share some ways to help improve compliance.

We are fortunate to have regulatory experts the caliber of Kristin and Richard at Inmar. Richard tells me that federal rules are evolving in a somewhat positive direction, where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking to better incorporate retail challenges and the value of reverse logistics as a tool in compliance. Bloomberg BNA reported in May that the EPA is working to create a more consistent national framework and better definitions for determining when a product is deemed a hazardous waste, and how it should be handled

That's a great development, considering that historically, retailers have had to comply with some hazardous waste rules that were set decades ago in a more industrial context. I hope we'll be able to see them embrace reverse logistics as a means of accomplishing the same compliance objectives in a much more cost-effective way for retailers.

As things lean toward improving on the federal level, they seem to get more complex at the state level and below, in states like California, where individual counties can set and enforce their own environmental regulations. The patchwork of regulations across the country is dizzying for companies operating stores in more than one of these states and/or counties.

I hope you can join the webinar and learn more about how to navigate these rough seas.

One of the great things about being part of a company like Inmar is working to make circumstances such as these more navigable. Last year, we learned of a major retailer who, without a means for tracking the changing regulatory landscape, was opting move straight to disposal with all potentially hazardous returns. They ensured complete compliance that way, but were missing out on manufacturer credit for a significant number of returns.

Applications like our Rx Haz App help retailers sort returns for proper documentation and disposition, as well as identify what's eligible for manufacturer credit. The retailer mentioned above was able to recoup significant manufacturer-credit dollars through a simple scan of returned product on return, while getting up-to-date regulatory disposition guidance through the software.

As the regulations get more complex and as pharmacies become more technologically connected, such solutions will be indispensable tools, allowing your pharmacists to do their jobs with patient care, and keeping you from having to staff every store with a regulatory expert.

I hope you can join us for the CHPA webinar, Aug. 18 at 1 p.m. You can register on the CHPA web site.

What challenges do you face with regulatory compliance? Tell me about it in the comments section below.