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    In The Home / FAQs

    Every year, hundreds of millions1 of people are injured from improperly discarded sharps. Waste handlers are at the high risk, but small children and pets can be injured as well. Proper storage and disposal of sharps and lancets, will protect members of your household and the general public from accidental injury.

    How can I safely dispose of used hypodermic needles or sharps?
    Hypodermic needles, syringes and lancets are all called “sharps.” Because sharps can transmit bloodborne pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis B and C, they are potentially biohazardous waste and are an important public health hazard. When a needle is tossed into a household wastebasket, it quite often ends up sticking janitorial staff or sanitation workers, or it may be used for unintended purposes. Even a benign needle stick can trigger costly interventions, such as counseling, testing and preventive treatment.

    For used needles and other sharps, Waste Management offers a specially designed MedWaste TrackerSM System to safely contain, transport and render sharps harmless to the community. Keep your MedWasteTracker in a safe place so it doesn’t endanger others.

    In disposing of your sharps, keep the following points in mind:
    • Never dispose of sharps in ways that can injure other people, pets or wildlife.
    • Do not put used needles in your household waste bin or any other refuse bin.
    • Never put a used sharp in a container that’s not specifically designed for sharps – such as drink cans, bottles, and plastic food boxes.
    • Once you’ve put a used needle into your sharps bin, don’t try to remove it.

    Where can I dispose of my sharps bin?
    Collection services vary depending on where you live. Some doctors and pharmacies provide collection services, as do some municipalities. A MedWaste TrackerSM System is a convenient way to return used sharps safely and securely through the U.S. Postal Service.

    May I use a detergent bottle or other hard-plastic container to store and dispose of sharps?
    No, please don’t. Such containers routinely burst open when compressed in garbage trucks. When the truck contents are dumped onto a conveyor line, workers pick out recyclables and are vulnerable to needle sticks.

    Should I sterilize sharps before disposing of them?
    When you use a sharps container and dispose of sharps properly, sterilization is not necessary. A community member who is stuck with a used sharp will not know if it has been sterilized and will not be able to avoid testing and treatment.

    What is considered “medical waste”?
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical waste is “waste sufficiently capable of causing infection during handling and disposal.” This may include blood-soaked bandages, discarded surgical gloves, discarded sharps, and so on, all of which merit special handling and disposal.

    Can I put soiled bandages, medical gloves and disposable bed linens in the trash?
    Contaminated wound dressings, disposable sheets and pads, gloves, and dialysis machine filters may be double- bagged in a standard plastic garbage bag and securely fastened. This material may then be combined with other household garbage for disposal.

    How can I dispose of prescription drugs?
    Never flush prescription drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so. For drugs not labeled to be flushed, you may be able to take advantage of community pharmaceutical return programs or other programs, such as household hazardous waste collection events that collect drugs at a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service and ask if a safe drug disposal program is available in your community.

    If a drug return or disposal program is not available in your community:
    • Take your prescription drugs out of their original containers.
    • Mix drugs with an undesirable substance such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.
    • Put this mixture into a disposal container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub or into a sealable bag.
    • Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with a black permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off.
    • Place the sealed container with the mixture, and the empty drug containers, into the trash.

    Waste Management is preparing to launch environmentally-protective and safe solutions for the return and destruction of pharmaceuticals. Be sure to check back for more information about our programs coming soon!

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