Sharps Container Basics

Medical waste (sharps) disposal requires a puncture resistant container.

by Sarah Morrison

sara-bakhshi-1080214-unsplash

TerraCycle Regulated Waste has started working with many different end users that include patients that self inject at home, healthcare facilities, nursing facilities and more. It is very important to make sure that sharps are properly secured in a OSHA approved sharps container to avoid needle sticks.

For many individuals, interaction with sharps is an everyday occurrence. Sharps are classified as any device or object used to puncture or lacerate the skin. These include common items such as: hypodermic needles, disposable scalpels and blades, and contaminated glass and some plastics. (1) Once used in this manner, a sharp is now labeled as bio-hazardous waste, and must be disposed of properly in a sharps container. In this blog, we are going to discuss the following:

What are Sharps Containers?

Why are Sharps Containers needed?

Where do you find Sharps Containers?

What are Sharps Containers?

The FDA has cleared certain types of containers for certified sharps container disposal. These plastic containers must be “leak-resistant, remain upright during use, and have a tight-fitting, puncture-resistant lid”. (2) The reasoning behind this heavy amount of regulation is the fact that used sharps are considered to be bio-hazardous waste. Sharps containers can be either single-use, disposed of along with the sharp inside, or recyclable, which are emptied and sterilized before being returned for use. (1)

Why are Sharps Containers needed?

According to the WHO, more than sixteen billion injections are administered annually worldwide. (3) Individuals with medical conditions such as allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, and psoriasis, require the use of sharps often multiple times a day.

Examples of sharps include:

● Needle – a very fine, slender, hollow piece of metal used to inject medication under the skin.

● Syringe – device which a needle is attached to in order to inject medication into or withdraw fluid from the body.

● Lancet also called a “finger stick” – instruments with a short, two-edged blade used to get drops of blood for testing. Lancets are commonly used in the treatment of diabetes.

● Auto injector, including epinephrine pens – syringe pre-filled with fluid medication designed to be self-injected into the body.

● Infusion set – tubing system with a needle used to deliver drugs to the body.

● Connection needle/set – needle that connects to a tube used to transfer fluids in and out of the body. This is generally used for patients on home hemodialysis. (4)

Sharps container disposal is necessary in order for that bio-hazardous material to be safely handled. It’s important that disposed sharps not be forced into the container, so that the sides aren’t punctured and needle stick injury occur. Sharps containers should never be filled past the indicated line, typically two-thirds of the way, in order to prevent these incidents.

Where do you find Sharps Containers?

Any facility such as healthcare, dental, and medical offices that handle sharps, are required to house FDA-certified sharps containers. In addition to medical facilities, many public areas such as airports and restrooms in large institutions also offer sharps containers in order to accommodate the self-injectors. Sharps disposal is heavily regulated, requiring containers to display a bio-hazardous symbol indicating that the material inside is hazardous. Each state regulates the disposal of sharps differently. Click HERE to determine your state’s standards for sharps disposal.

It’s important to minimize the amount of contact that an individual has with bio-hazardous material such as sharps waste. For that reason, programs such as sharps mail-back systems exist to take away the issue of finding a reputable disposal location. TerraCycle Regulated Waste can proactively provide sharps mail-back systems to patients that self-inject. Any healthcare facility or self injector can find solutions for sharps Mail-Back waste HERE.

The number of sharps produced annually is steadily growing. Sharps containers are necessary in ensuring that the disposal of that bio-hazardous waste is done safely and efficiently.

Sources

(1) “Sharps Waste.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Sept. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharps_waste.

(2) “FDA-Cleared Sharps Containers.” Safe Needle Disposal, safeneedledisposal.org/sharps-management/fda-cleared-sharps-containers/.

(3) WHO Archived 2006-05-25 at the Wayback Machine. World Health Organization (2004). Proposed agenda to evaluate the risks and benefits associated with using needle-removing devices. Switzerland.

(4) Safe Needle Disposal. (2018). What Are Sharps? – Safe Needle Disposal – Types of Sharps. [online] Available at: https://safeneedledisposal.org/sharps-management/what-are-sharps/ [Accessed 16 Oct. 2018].

Topics: sharps mail backsharps container disposalvet sharps disposal

You’re Doing That Wrong

State regulations on sharps disposal vary, but a mail-back container is a solution accepted in every state.

How to properly dispose of your personal needles and sharps

As the number of medications that must be injected by patients grows, so does the number of reported accidental needle ‘sticks’ for municipal solid waste collectors and workers.  With diseases like HIV and Hepatitis potentially transmitted by dirty needles, in addition to other possible illnesses, MSW departments are concerned for the health of their employees, and rightly so.

Improvised sharps storage

But there is no good reason why the health and safety of these workers need be put in jeopardy when accidental sticks are easily preventable.  Virtually every municipality and state in the country requires that used medical needles and sharps be disposed of in puncture-proof containers.  And while some locations will allow for improvised solutions, such as empty laundry detergent bottles, most do require purpose-specific sharps containers.

Needle clipping system

The dangers of accidental sticks are so great that several states have gone so far as to completely ban disposal of used sharps and needle in the household waste, even if properly contained in a purpose-specific sharps container.  A number of states require disinfecting any sharps before disposal in the household trash.  Some locations require all needles and sharps be destroyed before disposal.  This can be with the use of an at-home needle clipper or plaster of Paris.  

Mail-Back Programs are a Solution

Mail-back sharps system

TerraCycle can provide an easy, safe solution for sharps disposal.  We feature puncture-resistant sharps containers in a wide array of sizes– from household sized containers, perfect for the person needing to inject once a month all the way to institutionally-sized containers for small medical offices or tattoo/piercing parlors.  And every sharps container we offer comes with prepaid postage and shipping containers, so that disposal is handled safely, professionally and properly.

Our mail-back medwaste disposal meets or exceeds sharps disposal requirements in every state, including California, Massachusetts and Oregon.  And unlike most medwaste processors, TerraCycle utilizes hemostat technology to decontaminate the sharps and needles, then recovers the recyclable metals, limiting the impact on the environment.

TerraCycle has compiled a list of state regulations on the disposal of sharps and needles for your convenience.  If you have any questions or would like more information on one of our mail-back programs, contact a TerraCycle Regulated Waste representative now.

State Regulations

StateRequirementsSub-sectionsRequirements
AlabamaCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Disinfect at home w/ bleach
Double bag, seal, discard in household trash
AlaskaContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash- not recycling
ArizonaCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash- not recycling
ArkansasCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Disinfect at home w/bleach
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Double bag and discard with household trash
CaliforniaDisposal of home generated sharps waste PROHIBITED
Commercially available APPROVED sharps container
Transport to collection center (pharmacy, hospital, household hazardous
waste facility) -or-
Mail-back program
ColoradoCounty laws supersede state requirements
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash- not recycling
Mesa County
El Paso County
Larimer County
Refer to local regulations
ConnecticutCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container or
Sharps/Needle destruction device
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash- not recycling
DelawareCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Double bag
Discard with household trash- not recycling
District of ColumbiaCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Disinfect at home w/bleach
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
FloridaCounty laws supersede state requirements
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash -or-
Mail-back program
54 counties out of 67
have regulations in
place
Refer to local regulations
GeorgiaCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Double bag
Discard with household trash- not recycling
HawaiiCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Disinfect at home w/ bleach
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Double bag
Discard with household trash- not recycling
IdahoCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Double bag
Discard with household trash- not recycling
IllinoisContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Personal needle destructive device
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash- not recycling
Northern Cook County
LaSalle County
Further regulations
http://www.epa.illinois.gov/Assets/iepa/waste-management/medication-disposal/sharps-fact-sheet.pdf

http://www.knib.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Safe-Disposal-of-Sharps.pdf
IndianaCounty laws supersede 
IowaContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash- not recycling
KansasCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Disinfect at home w/ bleach
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Double Bag
Discard with household trash- not recycling
KentuckyCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash- not recycling
LouisianaCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Fill with Plaster of Paris
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash- not recycling
MaineContact medical provider, community health center
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Strong plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal container and ensure outside is free of visible contamination
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device (free to residents)
MarylandContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device
MassachusettsDisposal of home generated sharps waste PROHIBITED
Commercially available sharps container or puncture-resistant container
Transport to collection center (pharmacy, hospital, household hazardous
waste facility) -or-
Mail-back program
MichiganContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device
MinnesotaContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device
MississippiContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device
MissouriContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device
MontanaContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device
NebraskaContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device
NevadaCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program
* Washoe County
   Exception
New HampshireContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device
New JerseyContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device
New MexicoCounty laws supersede 
New YorkState law allows disposal of home generated sharps in the regular trash,
however, local laws may prohibit
Hospital and nursing homes are required by law to accept properly
contained sharps:
Commercially available sharps container, puncture resistant plastic or
metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal the container with heavy-duty tape
North CarolinaCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling 
North DakotaContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device
OhioContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device
OklahomaCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling
OregonDisposal of home generated sharps waste PROHIBITED
Commercially available APPROVED sharps container
Transport to collection center (pharmacy, hospital, household hazardous
waste facility) -or-
Mail-back program
PennsylvaniaCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Disinfect at home w/bleach
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Double bag and discard with household trash
Rhode IslandCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Double bag and discard with household trash
South CarolinaCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Double bag and label with state-supplied warning sticker
Discard with household trash
State-supplied warning
stickers available for
free at 800-285-5257
South DakotaCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Disinfect at home w/bleach
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash
TennesseeCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash
TexasCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash
UtahContact medical provider, pharmacy, fire station
for local disposal options -or-
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Discard with household trash- not recycling -or-
Mail back program -or-
Personal sharps needle destruction device
VermontCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash
VirginiaCounty and Municipal regulations supersede
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash
City of Salem
Fairfax County
Prince William County
WashingtonCounty and Municipal regulations supersede
Commercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash
King CountyKing County prohibits disposal of used sharps in residential trash
West VirginiaCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Disinfect at home w/bleach
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Double bag and discard with household trash
WisconsinDisposal of home generated sharps waste PROHIBITED
Commercially available sharps container or puncture-resistant container
Transport to collection center (pharmacy, hospital, household hazardous
waste facility) -or-
Mail-back program
WyomingCommercially available sharps container or
Puncture-resistant plastic or metal container
  No clear or glass containers
Seal with heavy-duty tape
Label container: “SHARPS” or “DO NOT RECYCLE”
Discard with household trash