Sharps are medical or therapeutic devices or objects that come complete with projections, corners, or edges capable of piercing or cutting the skin. Sharps are also capable of piercing or cutting regular waste bags or receptacles. Laws on both the federal and state level regulate the manner in which sharps are to be disposed. These regulations exist in order to protect others from physical and contamination hazards that are associated with sharps.
Commonly Used Sharps
There is a myriad of sharps utilized for medical or therapeutic purposes. Some of the most commonly utilized sharps are:
- Hypodermic needles
- Medical tubing
- Blunted needles
- Pasteur pipettes
- Broken glassware
- Microscope slides
- Glass capillary tubes
In addition to an array of different types of sharps, they are classified in four different ways:
- Noncontaminated (excluding all needles, lancets, and syringes)
- Biohazardous (including all needles, lancets, and syringes)
- Chemically contaminated
Proper disposal protocols exist for each of these classifications of sharps.
Disposal of Noncontaminated Sharps
The disposal requirements for noncontaminated sharps are the least restrictive when contrasted with the other sharps classifications. With that said, there must be absolutely certainty that sharps included in this category truly are noncontaminated. They must be wholly free from biohazardous, chemical, or radioactive contaminants.
Select a rigid, puncture resistant, and leak proof container designed for sharps such as a laundry detergent bottle or an FDA cleared sharps container. If there are warning labels associated with contamination, make sure that label is removed or obliterated.
Keep the container located near the place where noncontaminated sharps are utilized. Place sharps into the container in an orderly manner. Keep all free liquids out of the container. Never place sharps into the container above the fill line.
Then drop off the sharps container at one of the many collection sites located throughout the country. You can view the list of sharps collection sites in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange Counties here.
Disposal of Biohazardous Sharps
Obtain a rigid, puncture resistant, and leak proof container designed for biohazardous sharps. These containers are red in color and come complete with the international biohazard symbol.
Free biohazardous sharps containers are offered at various locations throughout Southern California.
Los Angeles Locations
- City of Monrovia
City of Monrovia Public Works, 600 S. Mountain Ave., Monrovia, 91016
Monrovia City Hall, 415 S. Ivy Ave., Monrovia, 91016
- City of Norwalk
Social Services Center, 11929 Alondra Blvd., Norwalk, 90650 (562) 929-5544
Hours: Monday to Friday – 8am to 5pmNorwalk Senior Center, 14040 San Antonio Dr., Norwalk, 90650
Hours: Monday to Friday – 8am to 5pm
- City of Lakewood
Lakewood City Hall, 5050 Clark Ave., Lakewood, 90712
- City of Sierra Madre
Sierra Madre Senior Center, 222 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 91024
- City of Torrance
Health Care Partners Medical Group, 3565 Del Amo Blvd., Torrance, 90503 (310) 354-2300
Hours: Monday to Friday – 8am to 5pm
- City of Long Beach
Ward’s Pharmacy, 653 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach, 90802
- City of Redondo Beach
City of Redondo Beach Public Works, 531 N. Gertruda Ave., Redondo Beach, 90277
- City of Hawthorne
Hawthorne City Hall, 4455 W. 126th St., 2nd Floor (Engineering Counter), Hawthorne, 90250
- City of El Segundo
City of El Segundo, Public Works Department, 350 W. Main St., El Segundo, 90245
- City of Burbank Recycling Center
500 South Flower St., Burbank, 91502
- Hubert Humphrey Health Center
Room 1079-Diabetes Clinic,
5850 South Main St., Los Angeles, 90003
- Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Works
900 S. Fremont Ave., Annex Building – 3rd Floor, Alhambra, 91803
(Closed on Fridays)
Keep the container in the predesignated biohazardous waste disposal area. Place sharps into the container in an orderly manner. Keep all free liquids out of the container. Never place sharps into the container above the fill line.
Special disposal protocols are in place for biohazardous sharps. These types of sharps can be autoclaved, deactivated, or removed for destruction, which typically involves incineration.
In California, it is unlawful to throw biohazardous sharps in the trash or down the drain..
Disposal of Chemically Contaminated Sharps
Obtain a rigid, puncture resistant, and leak proof container labeled with a hazardous waste tag. Make sure that any other information or biohazard symbol is removed or obliterated on the container.
Locate the container in the area at which the sharps are utilized. Before placing a sharp into the container, make certain that any infectious agents have been deactivated.
Place sharps into the container in an orderly fashion. Keep all free liquids out of the container. Do not place sharps into the container above the fill line.
Once the container is filled, contact an appropriate hazardous waste disposal service for removal.
Disposal of Radioactive Sharps
Even if a radioactive sharp contains chemical or biohazardous materials, it must be treated like a radioactive sharp. Utilize a rigid, puncture resistant, and leak proof container. Make certain that the only readable label on the container notes that it contains hazardous waste. In addition, the container needs to include more specific information about what contaminates the sharps contained in it. This information includes:
- Isotope used
- Additional chemical or biohazards
- Method to deactivate or disinfect sharps (if any)
- Mark the waste type as “other” and clearly write “SHARPS” on the tag
Keep the container at a location near where the radioactive waste is generated. Deactivate any infectious agents on the sharps.
As with other types of sharps containers, orderly place sharps into the container. Keep all free liquids out of it. Do not place sharps into the container above the designated fill line.
When the container is full, seal it tightly. Contact an appropriate disposal service for removal of the container.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration maintains additional resources regarding the disposal of sharps.
Sharp Disposal Training
In order to make absolutely certain that sharp disposal protocol always is followed, training of individuals who will be utilizing these items is necessary. Not only is initial training undertaken before a person deals with sharps and their disposal, refresher training is also necessary.