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Infectious Waste Information

Disposing of loose needles and syringes (sharps) into the household waste poses a risk to family members and solid waste workers who must handle the waste. While Ohio law allows the disposal of "sharps" used by an individual for purposes of his/her own care or treatment in their home into the solid waste stream, it is important to recognize the hazard they pose to solid waste workers. Solid waste workers handle waste containers without knowledge of the contents.

"Sharps" should be packaged in a fashion that would minimize opportunity for contact injury. Needles and syringes should be discarded intact after use. Needles should never be bent, broken, or manipulated by hand. If the purchase of a medical grade sharps container is costly then we recommend alternatives for safe disposal of sharps.

What are "Sharps?" "Sharps" include lancets, hypodermic needles and syringes, scalpel blades, and glass articles that have been broken (other than household items).

Who are home sharp users? A person who generates sharp wastes for the purpose of their own care or treatment in their home. For example, an insulin dependent diabetic or a terminally ill person being cared for by family members and given injections.

What are my alternatives to a purchased sharps container? Use a rigid, leak-proof, puncture-resistant container with a tight fitting lid. Common household containers which match this description are: detergent bottles, bleach bottles, 2 liter pop bottles, plastic juice containers, and coffee cans (if the lid is securely taped to the can). Glass containers are not recommended for use as sharps containers because the glass may break and spill the contents. Also, plastic milk jugs make poor sharps containers. The plastic used in these containers is thin and sharps easily poke through. In addition, milk jugs do not always have a tight fitting lid. Any container used to dispose of sharps should be labeled, in big block letters, with the word "SHARPS" on all sides of the container. This is especially important if the container used is recyclable.

What are some other disposal alternatives for sharps? Ask the company or pharmacy where you purchase your medical supplies regarding disposal alternatives. Some have programs to accept sharps containers, free or for a nominal fee, which are then treated and disposed. Your local health department may also be aware of available disposal alternatives. Also, the home user may have the sharps picked-up by a commercial service.

Can I put "sharps" into the trash? Yes, after packaging into an appropriate container and labeling to convey its potential hazard, the container maybe placed directly into a garbage receptacle. You may contact your local solid waste hauler to ask about their policy pertaining to accepting "sharps" containers in the solid waste.

If I choose to package my "sharps" in a plastic bottle, will the bottle get recycled? Labeling the plastic bottle sharps will convey the potential hazard inside to the recycling facility or transfer facility worker.

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