Medical Sharps Disposal
Every year, people throughout the country use billions of needles, syringes and lancets — also known as sharps — to manage medical conditions at home. Improperly discarded sharps potentially expose people to infection or injury, posing a health risk not only to sanitation, housekeeping and janitorial workers, but also pets, children and other family members. Besides stick wounds, used needles can also transmit serious diseases from herpes to HIV. The following guidelines provide methods to properly dispose sharps and protect yourself and others.
Disposal Options for Individuals Using Sharps at Home
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified several ways to safely discard medical sharps:
- Place sharps in either a medical sharps container (purchased from a pharmacy or health care provider) or in a heavy-plastic or metal container.
- Use household containers, such as plastic detergent bottles, only if the lid is secured with heavy-duty tape and the words, “Do Not Recycle,” are written on the container with a permanent marker.
- Never place the container in the recycle bin.
- Do not overfill containers. To maximize space, you can use a needle cutter/destroyer (severs needles from the syringe and costs anywhere from $5 to $140).
- Keep containers out of reach from children and pets.
- Fully encapsulate sharps prior to disposal in a solid waste receptacle. (You can add quick-drying cement, plaster or similar materials to the container of sharps as long as you allow the container to dry before disposal.)
Sharps Mail-Back Program
Following are some programs that will send you special containers and packaging, dispose of them properly, and send you a new empty set to refill. Please note that these programs will only accept sharps disposal containers that they send to you.
- Republic Sharps Service: 855-737-7871
- GRP: 800-207-0976
- MED PRO: 866-402-7499
- Sharps, Inc.: 800-772-5657
Disposal Options for Businesses or Facilities that are Licensed by the Department of Health Services
Properly Document Storage and Disposal Information
Tracking documents must be kept on site for a minimum of one year from disposal date and regularly updated. Typically documented information includes (but is not limited to):
- The name of the person in charge of sharps containers and facility name and address
- Dates of use (i.e., storage start-of-use and date container filled) and of disposal/pick-up
- An ID system, if there are multiple containers in use at one facility
Proper Sharps Storage
Sharps containers must be:
- Located away from food and other waste
- In a locked container marked “Biohazardous Medical Waste” with the universal biohazard symbol
- Stored for no more than 90 days when full or when no longer in use
Proper Disposal of Sharps
Must have a state registered biohazardous medical waste transporter pick up sharps and take them to a biohazardous medical waste treatment facility | View Biohazardous Medical Waste Transporters List >