How to Dispose of Sharp Containers

Sharps is a term used to describe products like needles, syringes, and lancets. They are usually disposed of in a controlled way because they may carry HIV, hepatitis, and other viruses that cause disease. Others may be harmed by throwing them in the garbage or flushing them down the toilet. Sharps disposal regulations safeguard garbage workers as well as the public at large from needle sticks and sickness.

To prevent sharps from harming people, it is vital to place them in FDA-approved sharps containers or a sturdy, plastic container, such as bleach or laundry detergent bottle. 

How Can I Safely Dispose of My Sharp Containers?

sharps container disposal

A sharps disposal container can be disposed of in a number of ways. For proper sharps disposal options in your region, contact your local garbage removal services or health department (found in the municipal or county administration (blue) pages of your telephone directory) or search the Internet. However, here are some options for disposing of sharp containers.

1. Supervised Collection Points or Drop Boxes

If you plan to dispose of sharp containers, you may be able to bring your filled sharp containers to designated collection places, such as hospitals, pharmacies, health clinics, police and fire stations, health departments, medical waste facilities, and community groups.

Services may be provided for no charge or for a little price. California, Massachusetts, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, Mississippi, Wisconsin, and New York are among the states where these services are freely available. It is advisable to keep these tips in mind.

  • Do not take household sharps to a drugstore or law enforcement station’s “Take It to the Box” household medicine dropbox.
  • Prefilled syringes like EpiPen and Narcan injectors should be thrown away with your other sharps at home.
  • Use strong tape, such as sellotape, to seal the lid and any gaps if your sharps container does not have a secure screw-on cover.

2. Mail-Back Programs

You can send your FDA-approved filled sharps containers back to the manufacturers, who then put them in shipping containers and deliver them to a pickup station for appropriate disposal (in compliance with USPS standards). A price is normally charged for this service, and the amount may vary based on the size of the containers. 

Because these programs may have special criteria for mail-back, it’s critical to follow the manufacturer’s instructions supplied with the disposal container. Sharps mail-back programs are also available from several pharmaceutical firms. Check with your doctor or pharmacist, or look for “sharps mail-back” in the yellow pages or on the Internet.

3. Business Disposal Services

Medical Waste Pros, a US-based referral service for document shredding and professionally generated sharps, has partnered with Safe Needle Disposal. If you are a medical facility, business, institution, or other body that generates sharp waste, you will need to fill out your information on their website.

A representative from Medical Waste Pros will call you to discuss disposal options in your region. You can also reach them by phone. Their contact center is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST every day. 

4. Sites for the Collection of Household Hazardous Waste

Sharps disposal containers can be dropped off at nearby public hazardous household trash collection sites. Dangerous chemicals like home cleaners, paints, and motor oil are often also taken at these places.

We’ve put together a few articles on how to dispose of some of these hazardous wastes. You may want to see the 7 Ways to Dispose of Paint.

5. Special Residential Waste Pick-Up

Depending on how the pick-up business works, your city or town may also offer pick-up services using a sharps disposal container approved by the pick-up company. This container may be given to you by the pick-up company or the one you already own.

The container is usually positioned outside your home for pickup by specially trained waste workers.

Customers must call for pickup in certain programs, while others have set pickup times.

6. In-Home Disposal Devices

There are a number of solutions on the market that will destroy unwanted needles and make them safe to dispose of. Inquire with your doctor or pharmacist about “sharp destruction devices” or “sharp melting devices,” as well as where to get them in your region.

Sharps destruction devices are tools or containers with parts that can bend, break, shear, burn, or incinerate (destroy with high heat) needles.

At home, a sharp destruction mechanism can be used to destroy needles and lancets immediately after use. These compact, portable machines melt needles and convert them to BB-size balls in a few seconds at extreme heat.

These gadgets, which were previously exclusively accessible in hospitals, are now accessible in small, less expensive forms for home usage. The melted metal and syringe can be properly disposed of in the garbage once the needle or lancet has been destroyed by heat (not in the recycling container).

Is It Safe to Store Sharps in a Bottle?

It is now permitted in states like Minnesota to dispose of discarded sharps in a laundry detergent or bleach bottle with a lid (secured with tape).

However, due to the danger of injury and illness to waste haulers and processing plant personnel, this is strongly prohibited. It is preferable to adopt one of the previously mentioned alternatives for the proper handling and disposal of used sharps. Always remember to:

  • Never discard or recycle any used needles or syringes!
  • Label the container with the words “Do Not Recycle: Household Sharps.”
  • Sharps should be placed point-first.
  • Containers that are more than half-filled should be discarded.
  • Sharps should be kept in a tightly-closed container with the lid on.

Important Tips on Handling Your Sharps Container

how to dispose of sharp container

1. Avoid scheduled sharps container disposal, which involves removing containers at predetermined times regardless of fill level. During a shortage, removing and refilling sharps disposal containers at fixed times instead of when they are full might waste precious container space.

2. Inquire with your distributors about the many types of FDA-approved sharp disposal containers they offer. For example, it is better to have a sharps container that is FDA-approved but doesn’t fit into the wall brackets at your facility than to not have one at all.

3. After looking at to see how your state handles disposal and talking with your medical waste providers about other ways to handle disposal, you might want to use different containers.

Alternative containers must fulfill the following standards set by OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens guidelines:

  • Have a large enough hole for a sharp object to pass through but small enough to prevent the hand from getting through.

  • Have a lid that is both puncture-resistant and tight-fitting.

  • Always keep the container upright and steady while using and handling it.

  • Ensure the containers are properly labeled or color-coded according to OSHA labeling requirements to alert users to the presence of biohazardous sharps waste inside the container, specify what should and should not be placed inside the container, and state that it is not an FDA-approved sharp disposal container.

Alternative Sharp Containers Recommended by OSHA

  • Heavy-duty plastic domestic containers that have been drained and properly cleaned, including empty windshield wiper fluid, plastic washing powder, bleach, or cat litter containers.

  • Hard chemical or paint buckets with a tight cover and a detachable spout large enough for sharps to pass through them yet small enough for a hand not to enter. Hard chemical or paint buckets with a tight cover and a detachable spout large enough for sharps to pass through them yet small enough for a hand not to enter.

  • Heavy-duty plastic chemical-dispensing containers (2.5 or 5 gallons) with tight closures that are brand new and have never been used.

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