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The Problem

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.

By law, used sharps must be placed in puncture-proof bio-hazard containers and disposed at a designated sharps disposal site. However, many sharps are improperly disposed and enter the waste or recycling stream where they pose a sticking risk to workers.

The pictures below 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.

sharps burbank2 sharps Burbank 2012

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.

See our Sharps Stewardship Videos below to watch Republic Services’ James Weglarz talk about Republics’ efforts to share in the end-of-life responsibilities and Dave Waye from Queen of the Valley Hospital talk about the successful collaboration between five private and public entities during their sharps take-back event.

CA Sharps Collection Resources

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:

  • table of the 631 locations accepting used sharps with contact information by county, as listed on the CalRecycle website as of 7/25/2014.
  • table of the California counties and cities (including web links) that offer sharps containers at no cost to the public
  • summary of the status of injectable pharmaceutical manufacturers’ mail back disposal programs. Seven manufacturers provide no-cost mail back options in California
  • listing of San Luis Obispo County home-generated sharps disposal pharmacy participants

If you have corrections such as additions or deletions to the listings for the information found on CalRecycle’s website, please send your updates to christine@calpsc.org

International Sharps EPR Programs

Supporting Sharps Stewardship

Visit our 2015 Legislation page for current information on sharps stewardship legislation.

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.

sharps delnorte truck sign

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.

Tulare County  

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.

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 ordinance provides several options for compliance.  The ordinance takes effect September 5, 2014 with businesses required to establish collection programs by October, 1, 2014.


UltiCare’s “UltiGuard Safe Pack” provides an all-in-one solution that dispenses pen needles or syringes and doubles UltiCareas 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.


Sharps Stewardship Videos

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