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Health & Optical Clinics
Pharmaceutical Waste Medical Waste Lens Grinding Waste Management
This area covers environmental issues unique to retail health and optical clinics. They may provide vaccinations, treat minor ailments, and dispense pharmaceuticals. The main environmental issues are related to waste generated at these types of facilities, which may include pharmaceuticals, wastewater, optical lens grinding waste, medical waste, and other solid wastes. 

Compliance Considerations

Health and optical clinics may be regulated by multiple agencies, including: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Transportation (DOT), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), State Environmental Protection Agencies, StethoscopeState Pharmacy Boards, and potentially local Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW). 

Waste is the main environmental issue, and the primary compliance consideration is to determine the type of waste in order to identify what regulations apply, how it must be handled, and if it must be managed as a hazardous waste.

Pharmaceutical Waste

Some pharmaceutical wastes are considered hazardous wastes, and some are also regulated as controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Agency and/or its state counterparts. The proper identification and management of pharmaceutical waste is addressed on CRC's Pharmacy Department page

For other potentially hazardous wastes, information on Managing Hazardous Waste is available from the Healthcare Environmental Resource Center (HERC) and on the CRC Hazardous Waste page.

Medical Waste

Medical wastes such as bandages, culture dishes, discarded surgical gloves, instruments or lancets, medical sharps​ (e.g., needles to give shots or draw blood), swabs, and other materials contaminated by bodily fluids are generally regulated at the state and local level. The CRC Other Regulated Waste page has more information on handling medical waste.  In some states, administrative controls, such as California's medical waste management plans, are required.

Certain types of infectious medical waste may also be subject to federal requirements for transportation. The Healthcare Environmental Resource Center has more information on DOT regulations for medical waste, and the DOT has guidance on transporting infectious substances.

Lens Grinding and Waste Management

Eye GlassesApproximately 80% of the eyeglasses worn today have plastic lenses.  Both plastic and glass lenses are produced by successive stages of fine grinding, polishing, and shaping. Various lens treatments and tints can be added after the lenses are shaped and then inserted in the frames.  Wastes generated from this process include wastewater, dusts, and metallic scrap, including lead from the blocking process. The manufacture of glasses is regulated by the FDA.

Automated machinery is used in most of the processes involved in eyeglass manufacturing, and these machines use water in the grinding and polishing processes. Wastes generated can include: lead-bearing lens blocking alloy; alkaline wastewater from grinding, polishing, and blocking operations; spent solvent from tool cleaning operations; and ground glass or plastic fines (non-hazardous).

Lead-bearing wastes, alkaline wastewaters, and spent solvents could potentially be regulated as hazardous wastes. Alkaline wastewaters may also be subject to Clean Water Act regulation. Such wastewaters contain both particulates (e.g., glass or plastic fines, and metals, such as lead) and dissolved metals.  Depending on the quantities discharged per month and the local POTW requirements, it may be possible to discharge this wastewater directly to the municipal sewer system.  ​


There are resources for how to make health care more sustainable, including Practice Greenhealth and the Green Guide for Health Care.  

The environmental impacts of lens manufacturing can be reduced in a number of ways:

  • ​Glass and plastic fines generated from lens grinding can be recyclable. 
  • Wastewater from lens manufacturing can be filtered and reused, and metals can be recovered for recycling. 
  • Alloy substitution can eliminate lead and cadmium in the manufacturing process.  
For more information about reducing the environmental impacts of lens manufacturing, visit the Waste Minimization Opportunity Assessment:  Optical Fabrication Laboratory​.​

Leading Practices & Case Studies

Last Update: 2/8/2017 8:00:00 AM