Medical Waste

Never put needles and other sharp medical items in the trash, recycling or medication collection drop boxes.

Medical sharps, such as needles, syringes and lancets, pose an injury risk for anyone who comes in contact with these items.  Large numbers of sharps are used at home, work and on the road.  If sharps are put in the trash or recycling, or flushed down the toilet, they can injure sanitation workers or cause equipment problems.  Therefore, it is important to properly package and dispose of all sharps.

Correct Packaging of Used Medical Sharps
To help reduce the risk of injury, follow these four steps to get medical sharps ready for safe disposal.

1.  Clip the needle points with needle clippers, or recap or re-sheathe discarded sharps to help prevent needle sticks.  Recapping needles is prohibited in health care facilities because medical workers may stick themselves with contaminated needles, but individuals who administer their own medications are not at risk from their own needles.

2.  Place the sharps in rigid puncture-resistant containers with secure lids or caps.  Acceptable containers include commercially available sharps containers or thick-walled plastic detergent or bleach bottles with screw caps.  Study plastic coffee cans with the screw on lids are puncture resistant and can be used.  Unacceptable containers include plastic buckets, metal coffee cans (the lids are too easily punctured), plastic milk jugs, plastic bags, aluminum cans and soda bottles.  DO NOT add bleach to the container.  Bleach may not completely disinfect needles, and it could spill and injure you or waste handlers.  Please note: 5 gallon buckets, regardless of lids, pose an issue because they are overly rigid and harder to shred following treatment of sharps.

3.  Visibly label the sharps container with the words, "biohazard", "infectious waste" or "sharps", or with a bio-hazard emblem.  If you put sharps in a recyclable container, label it "Do Not Recycle".

4.  When the container is full, sealed and labeled, store it out of reach of children and dispose of it properly at a sharps collection station.

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