Improperly disposed sharps are a health threat. Throwing away sharps in trash or recycling bins or flushing them down toilets is illegal and it poses serious health risks to children, sanitation workers, water treatment facility operators and the general public. While industry leaders have questioned the need for sharps collection programs, pictures from the City of Burbank exemplify the problem.
Below are used medical sharps collected from the Burbank curbside recycling bins over an eight month period. During this time, two workers were stuck with needles and were forced to go through the long process of medical testing. Some of these red containers hold thousands of needles with only a small percent packaged in approved containers. All of the workers who sort recyclables by hand are at risk of being stuck by used sharps every day.
In September of 2008, it became illegal to dispose of sharps in the trash when California legislators passed SB 1305. However, because the law did not provide funding for a sharps management system, the legislation resulted in an unfunded mandate.
"While 4 percent of users put used needles in a puncture-resistant container, 3 percent flush them down the toilet and 93 percent throw them in the trash... As a result, an estimated 450,000 to 863,000 people outside of healthcare settings are injured by sharps each year, resulting in costs ranging from $1.7 to 3.7 billion per year nationally for associated injuries and infections" –Tom Erickson, Ulti-Med CEO
This situation poses an opportunity for companies who manufacture sharps and pharmaceuticals that are dispensed in sharps to share in the responsibility for these products at their end-of-life to further protect public health. Photo Source - The Triplicate
Supporting Sharps Stewardship
CPSC partnered with the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority (DNSWMA) on a grant which focused on fostering more product take-back programs. CPSC and DNSWMA developed outreach materials to educate the citizens of Del Norte County on proper sharps disposal and to help them to protect their neighbors and community.
CPSC consponsored AB 403 in 2013 in response to the unfunded mandate by SB 1305. AB 403 would create a convenient and effective statewide funded sharps management system. Find more about the status of the legislation here
- New Plan for Needles, Syringes - Adam Spencer, The Triplicate 3/21/12
- Most Drug Makers Failing at Providing Safe Needle Disposal - California Sharps Coalition 6/7/11
- CalRecycle Sharps Information Web Page
- FDA Information on Safe Disposal of Sharps
- Coalition for Safe Needle Disposal - National Organizational Web Page
California Policy and Legislation
For information on current legislation affecting sharps, see 2013 State Legislation.
- City of Roseville Debates Their Resolution and Stewardship for Sharps and Pharmaceuticals 7/21/10
- Sacramento City Ordinance on Home-Generated Sharps Waste Management 7/13/10
- San Luis Obispo County Ordinance establishing a sharps waste management program 5/14/08
- SB 486, Simitian - Medical Waste: Sharps Waste Approved by Governor 10/11/09
- SB 1305, Figueroa - Amendment to the Medical Waste Management Act Approved 7/12/06