Throwing away used medical sharps in the trash, recycling bin or flushing them down the toilet is illegal, as it poses serious health risks to children, sanitation workers, water treatment facility operators and the general public. An estimated one million Californians inject medications, generating more than 389 million used sharps each year.
CPSC is researching the status, convenience and costs of sharps collection programs in California for a white paper and would like to share the following information:
- A table of the 631 locations accepting used sharps with contact information by county, as listed on the CalRecycle website as of 7/25/2014.
- A table of the California counties and cities (including web links) that offer sharps containers at no cost to the public
- A summary of the status of injectable pharmaceutical manufacturers' mail back disposal programs. Seven manufacturers provide no-cost mail back options in California
- A listing of San Luis Obispo County home-generated sharps disposal pharmacy participants
These pictures from the City of Burbank exemplify the problem. Improperly disposed used sharps in Burbank curbside recycling bins were collected over an eight month period. During this time, two workers were stuck by needles and had to undergo medical testing for infectious diseases. Some of these containers hold thousands of needles, with only a small percent packaged safely.
Workers who sort recyclables by hand are at risk of being stuck by used sharps every day.
By law, sharps must be placed in puncture-proof bio-hazard containers and disposed at a designated sharps disposal site.
This situation poses an opportunity for companies who manufacture sharps and injectable medications to share in the responsibility for these products at their end-of-life to protect public health.
For instance, James Weglarz talks in this video about Republic Services' efforts to share in the end-of-life responsibilities.
In this video Dave Waye from Queen of the Valley Hospital talks about the successful collaboration five private and public entities had during their sharps take-back event.
Supporting Sharps Stewardship
Watch the Assembly Committee on Health Hearing - 4/29/2014
Del Norte County
CPSC partnered with the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority (DNSWMA) on a grant to foster more product take-back programs. CPSC and DNSWMA developed outreach materials to educate the citizens of the County on proper sharps disposal and to help them to protect their neighbors and community from needlestick injuries.
San Luis Obispo County
In 2008 the County of San Luis Obispo adopted a sharps management ordinance, setting up a program for the public to conveniently and safely take back used sharps to a retailer, free of charge. The ordinance places the responsibility of the disposal costs with the sharps manufacturers and retailers.
City of Sacramento
In 2010, Sacramento adopted a sharps take-back ordinance that required all retail stores, hospitals, and other points of sale or distributors of sharps for home use in the City to take back sharps at no additional cost to the customer at the time of return.
In 2014 the Tulare County JPA and eight other cities in the county adopted sharps take-back ordinance, modeled after the 2008 San Luis Obispo ordinance, which provide no-cost sharps take-back to Tulare residents. The ordinances require pharmacies and pet stores, among other retailers of sharps in Tulare County, to establish a system for collection of home-generated sharps waste in their retail outlet.
- Tulare County Sharps Brochure
- Tulare County, Cities Mandate 'Sharps' Drop-off Boxes - Lewis Griswold, Fresno Bee, 7/5/14
Santa Cruz County
In August 2014 the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors adopted a sharps take-back ordinance, which requires every retailer and provider of sharps in the unicorporated area of the county to provide at no-cost a sharps take-back program to residents. The ordinance requires pharmacies and pet stores, medical or vetrinary offices, clinics, hospitals and approved needle exchange programs located in the unicorporated area of the county to establish a system for collection of home-generated sharps waste on site during normal hours of operation. The ordinace provides several options for compliance. The ordinance takes effect September 5, 2014 with collection program establishment required by October, 1, 2014.
UltiCare's "UltiGuard Safe Pack" provides an all-in-one solution that dispenses pen needles or syringes and doubles as a puncture-resistant sharps container. UltiCare is owned by UltiMed, the only sharps manufacturer that only sells sharps with a container for safe disposal, at no additional cost to the consumer. For more information, see their website.
Articles & Press
- New Plan for Needles, Syringes - Adam Spencer, The Triplicate 3/21/12
- To the Point: The Risk Home Sharps Disposal Poses to Waste Workers - Christine M. Lederer, Waste360 1/8/12
- Most Drug Makers Failing at Providing Safe Needle Disposal - California Sharps Coalition 6/7/11
- Workbook for Sharps Injury & Illness Prevention - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008
- Preventing Blood-Borne Infections Through Pharmacy Syringe Sales & Safe Community Syringe Disposal - Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, 2003
- CalRecycle Sharps Information Webpage
- Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal
- FDA Information on Safe Disposal of Sharps
- Nova Scotia Sharps Stewardship Program
- Product Stewardship Institute: Sharps