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How to Properly Dispose of Sharps and Sharps Containers

School nurses are no strangers to sharps. There are many instances that you may need to use a needle, syringe, lancet or other injection device to treat a child. But once you’re done with the sharp, what do you do with it? Not all nurses are sure of the proper way to dispose of sharps but they know that incorrect disposal can cause injuries that may result in the transmission of disease. Below is a simple guide that will help you understand how to dispose of your sharps.

How do I dispose of sharps?

The FDA recommends a two-step process for properly disposing of used needles and other sharps.

Step 1: Place all sharps in a sharps disposal container immediately after they have been used.

Step 2: Dispose of used sharps disposal containers according to your community guidelines.

Sharps disposal guidelines and programs vary depending on your city and state. Check with your local trash removal services or health department to see which of the following disposal methods are available in your area.

How do I dispose of my sharps disposal containers?

Drop Box or Supervised Collection Sites
You may be able to drop off your sharps disposal containers at chosen collection sites, such as doctors' offices, hospitals, pharmacies, health departments, medical waste facilities, and police or fire stations. Services may be free or have a nominal fee.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Sites
Some local public household hazardous waste collection sites accept sharps disposal containers. These are sites that also commonly accept hazardous materials such as household cleaners, paints and motor oil.

Mail-Back Programs
You may be able to mail certain FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers to a collection site for proper disposal, usually for a fee. Fees vary depending on the size of the container. Make sure you follow the container manufacturer's instructions because mail-back programs may have specific requirements on how to label the containers.

Residential Special Waste Pick-Up Services
Your community may provide special waste pick-up services that send trained special waste handlers to collect sharps disposal containers from you. These services are typically fee-based and many have special requirements for the types of containers they will collect. Some programs require customers to call and request pick-ups, while other offer regular pick-up schedules.

How do I know when my sharps container is full? 

Sharps containers are considered full when the bucket is 75% full. The bucket should never be filled 100% or have sharps close to or sticking out of the opening. When the bucket is 75% full it allows the container to be safely and securely sealed for disposal.

What is the best type of sharps container for me?

No matter which container you use, all sharps disposal containers should be:

  • Made of a heavy-duty plastic
  • Able to close with a tight-fitting, puncture-resistant lid
  • Upright and stable
  • Leak-resistant
  • Properly labeled to warn of hazardous waste inside the container

As you shop for a sharps container, you’ll find that they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, configurations and lid designs. MacGill carries a wide selection of sharps containers so that you can choose the best one to fit your needs. Click here to shop our complete line of sharps containers.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact MacGill. We’d be happy to help!

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