Local Update: California State Auditor Releases Report on Take Back

May 18, 2017

The California State Auditor’s office released a report on home-generated sharps and pharmaceutical waste disposal as directed by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. The official request was to gather data on relevant laws and regulations, consumer education, current programs and their efficacy, best practices from other jurisdictions, volume of waste and more.

The overall recommendation from the report encouraged the legislature to provide the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) with statutory oversight responsibility for such waste disposal and provide them with additional resources as necessary. Their conclusion that the lack of a lead state agency for oversight has left California consumers with conflicting guidance and a lack of adequate information about collection sites.

The report then encourages CalRecycle to focus on:

  • Public Education Campaign: The report argues that a current lack of education and coordinated guidance around proper disposal methods for consumers exists;
  • Public Listing of Locations: The report contends that about 89% of consumers live within a 20‑minute drive of sites for proper disposal;
  • Increase Access for Underserved Populations: The report documents around 4 million Californians live further away and would need great opportunities for access, including subsidizing mail-back options;
  • Review Other State Programs: The report specifically highlights New York State’s consumer education program as a possible model.

Other recommendations from the Audit include increasing in-state options for processing pharmaceutical waste through the authorization of municipal solid waste incinerators and adopting standard requirements for counties to follow if/when those localities implement extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs.

CalRecycle responded to the Audit with concerns regarding its potential designation as the oversight body due to lack of resources, expertise, and enforcement authority. They also were concerned that the Audit discounts the pursuit of EPR legislation. The Auditor rebutted by asserting its “disappointment with CalRecycle’s reluctance to assume leadership responsibility.”

For more information on the Audit and take back programs in general, please contact Reese Isbell, CLSA’s Director of Local Government and Community Relations (