How to Recycle Medical Sharps

Recycle Medical Sharps
Medical sharps are not recyclable, but the containers are often cleaned and reused. There are several national mail-back programs, collection and exchange programs available, or you can dispose of these properly though local household hazardous waste (HHW) facilities.

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Frequent Medical Sharps Recycling Questions

Where do I take my medical sharps?

Home users can take their sharps containers filled with used needles to designated collection sites, including doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, health departments and fire stations, as well as local household hazardous waste facilities. Ask your health care provider if they have a take-back program in place for used sharps or jump to the recycling locator to find a location now.

If you have limited drop-off options locally, mail-back programs and syringe exchange programs are also viable options for responsibly disposing of your used sharps. Ask your health care provider for more information.

Several manufacturers also offer products that allow you to destroy used needles at home. These devices sever, burn or melt the needle, rendering it safe for disposal, the EPA says. If you’re interested in one of these products, ask your local pharmacist for more information.

Are there laws against throwing them out?

State legislative efforts to regulate the disposal of medical sharps began in 1998 in California. Currently, more than 20 states have laws on the books regulating the handling and disposal of medical sharps. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s State Needle Safety Legislation page provides state-by-state and territory-by-territory information on laws and regulations affecting the labeling, transportation and and disposal of used needles and other sharps.

Even if it is not against the law in your state to throw used sharps into a household trash can, doing so can pose potential health risks to waste workers, janitors or anyone who handles the garbage. The safest way to dispose of used sharps is at a designated drop-off location. Ask your health care provider about availability in your area or jump to the recycling locator to find a location now.

Are used medical sharps considered hazmat?

Medical sharps used at home are considered household hazardous waste (HHW) in almost all states. Improper disposal of discarded sharps can pose potential health risks to the public and waste workers. For example, waste workers may be exposed to potential needle stick injuries and potential infection when sharp containers break open inside garbage bags or needles are mistakenly sent to a recycling center.

For this reason, you should always dispose of your sharps at a designated drop-off location, such as a doctors’ office or your local household hazardous waste facility. To avoid potential risks to waste workers in your area, do not place used sharps in your household trash can, and never put sharps in a curbside recycling bin. Ask your health care provider if they have a take-back program in place for used sharps or jump to the recycling locator to find a location now.

Do I have to dispose of them in bulk?

Most drop-off, mail-back and exchange programs do not have a minimum requirement for medical sharps, meaning you can dispose of as many or as few as you’d like. However, you’ll save some time transporting your used sharps if you fill up your sharps container before bringing it to a collection site. That said, be careful not to overfill it, either. The FDA warns that overfilling a sharps container increases risk of accidental needle stick injury.

Are razor blades regulated like medical sharps?

The term “medical sharps” refers to any sharp object used in the diagnosis, treatment or immunization of humans or animals. This also includes razor blades, according to Brookhaven National Laboratory, one of 10 national laboratories overseen by the Office of Science of the U.S. and the Department of Energy.

That said, many states do not regulate razor blades in the same way they regulate medical sharps. So, check with your local waste provider to ensure you are compliant with state and local disposal laws.
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