Medical Sharps Disposal
As of September 1, 2008, it is illegal to dispose of sharps waste in the trash.
The state law requires home generated sharps waste be collected in an approved container and transported to a collection center. This law addresses both human health and environmental concerns associated with sharps disposal.
An estimated 400 million sharps are disposed of in California each year. In an effort to reduce the amount of the waste stream going to landfills, workers must sometimes sort though materials by hand. The presence of needle devices disposed of in household trash and curbside recycling bins exposes waste workers to needle stick injuries and their resultant infections.
The availability of 'at home' injection of medication has provided consumers with added convenience and lower overall medical costs. But these same consumers should be provided with a free and convenient opportunity to properly manage these devices (as evidenced in the picture above, taken at a Sacramento store that provides sharps disposal).
In 2006, Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 1305 (Figueroa), closing a loophole in existing law by prohibiting the disposal of these sharps in the municipal solid waste stream, while reducing regulatory burdens on those that would operate programs for proper management of these devices.
What counts as "sharps waste" under the law.
Section 117671 of the California Health and Safety Code defines "home-generated sharps waste" as hypodermic needles, pen needles, intravenous needles, lancets, and other devices that are used to penetrate the skin for the delivery of medications derived from a household, including a multifamily residence or household.
According to state law, approved sharps containers are rigid, leak-proof, puncture resistant, sealed and clearly marked with the biohazard symbol and the word “sharps.” The containers are usually red in color. To find approved manufacturers of containers, go to this FDA database and enter the word "sharps".
How to Properly Dispose of Your Sharps
- There are different ways to properly dispose of your medical sharps waste. Check out the opportunities available on CalRecycle's website or use the CalRecycle's medical sharps waste directory to find a place near you to receive or drop off a full sharps container for residential use. Also check with your local government and local pharmacy to see if they have more information about proper disposal.