By definition, sharps waste is a kind of (bio)medical waste that includes any kind of tool or object that is able to puncture or cut the skin, hence the term “sharps”. It should be noted that they can also be classified as biohazardous waste, and therefore can be harmful to both humans and animals. It should come as no surprise that they must be handled very carefully.
The most common examples of sharps waste include:
- Hypothermic and blunted needles, syringes
- Disposable blades, scalpels, razors
- Broken and/or contaminated glass
- Microscope slides
- Certain medical tubes
- Some plastics
Disposing of sharps waste with a two-step process
To properly dispose of this type of medical waste, these are the steps you should pay attention to:
Step 1: Place each kind of sharps waste in the correct disposal container IMMEDIATELY after use
Sharps containers are made of hard plastic and are either disposed along with the waste inside them, or in some cases sterilized and reused after the waste disposal process. In North America their color is red but are almost always yellow everywhere else. It is imperative to never force or push the needles inside the container, as you risk damaging the container, or even worse, injure and contaminate yourself. To avoid such risks, it is best to dispose of the container when it is already 75% full.
Step 2: Dispose of the used sharps containers
How exactly? You may check the community guidelines that apply to the place where you live, and contact a local trash removal service or health department. If you really want to save a lot of time and effort (not to mention dispose of sharps in the safest way possible),you can contact a waste disposal company. The latter option is especially more useful for hospitals, other medical facilities, and any business that generates a huge amount of sharps waste.
The used sharps disposal method can also depend on whether the produced waste can be classified as hazardous or not. Since non-hazardous sharps waste isn’t as dangerous, one may choose from a lot more waste removal options. Waste management companies usually make use of autoclaves (pressure chambers that use steam and elevated temperature to sterilize most medical equipment),or HTI (high temperature incineration). The former is an excellent method in the case of non-hazardous material, although open flame incineration could prove safer to avoid the risk of sharps waste that weren’t properly segregated. To avoid any kind of biohazard related harm to the environment, HTI can be an ideal method to ensure the complete extermination of hazardous sharps waste.
In case of households, the following disposal methods can be used (although they can vary depending on the country you live in):
- Public household waste collection sites: these also tend to accept hazardous waste.
- Supervised collection sites: pharmacies, hospitals, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, health departments, police or fire stations.
- Special waste disposal services: fee-based service using trained waste handlers.
- Mail-back programs: fee-based mail service with specific requirements on how sharps containers can be sent.