Generally, people who use a form of sharps on a regular basis do not intend for a victim to be injured when they dispose of their sharps. The problem is that it is difficult to dispose of sharps safely. The reason for this is that when disposing of used sharps, they must be treated more carefully than other types of waste. When sharps are thrown in the garbage or recycling bins, this can still cause harm to humans or animals. Needles can easily pierce through bags and stick into a sanitation worker or animal, which could lead to an infection. Due to the amount of work it takes to correctly dispose of sharps, some people neglect to perform this task correctly and put lives at risk.
In a bill introduced by Senator Figueroa on February 16, 2006, as of September 1, 2008, the law prohibits a person from “knowingly placing home-generated sharps waste in certain types of containers, provide that home-generated sharps waste shall be transported only in a sharps container, as defined in the act, or other container approved by the department or local enforcement agency, and provide that this waste shall only be managed at specified locations consistent with existing law” (SB 1305).
So where do these sharps go? “Store them, but do not place them in the trash can” (M. Seaman). There are a few things a person must do if they plan to store their needles for future disposal. “Put them in a plastic container with a biohazard material or lid on it, you can even use a lunadry detergent bottle, but not glass bottles, aluminum cans, or coffee cans. Put them in needle first, and keep them out of reach of children and the pets.
After these sharps are stored and ready to be disposed of, there are a number of places that person can take these sharps to guarantee that they will not injure anyone. There are many places where these sharps can be dropped off. For example, doctor’s offices, hospitals, pharmacies, health departments, medical waste facilities, police stations, and fire stations all may be able to collect your used sharps for free, or a small fee.
There are also some exchange programs that take used needles and syringes and will give you a clean and unused needle and syringe.
Sharps may also be taken to a local public household hazardous waste collection site.
There are also “mail-back” programs that can take used sharps back. There are FDA- cleared sharps disposal containers that can be mailed for a fee depending on the size of the container. These containers usually have instructions that must be followed because there are certain requirements on how to label disposable sharps containers. (GRP’s Mail-Back Sharps Service)
There are options for those who decide that they want to destroy the needle right after use to ensure nobody will be harmed after their use. There are needle destruction devices that can be purchased to destroy the needles immediately. There are two known devices that can destroy these sharps. A needle incinerator is a small, portable device that uses a few seconds of high heat to melt needles and reduce them to BB-size balls. Once the needle or lancet is destroyed in an incineration device, the remaining syringe and melted metal can be safely disposed of in the garbage. A needle cutter that automatically stores the cut needles is also useful while away from home when a disposal container is not available. Clipped needles should be disposed in the same manner as any other used needle (gnrhealth.com).
For those that are unsure or unable to properly dispose of used sharps, the needle destruction devices are a good idea because they are able to get rid of the used and possible infectious needles right on the spot. It is a good idea for those that use needles on a regular basis to own one of these devices.
Local Sharps Disposal
For local people in Sacramento who are concerned about where they can dispose of their used sharps, they have some options. Sacramento Recycling and Solid Waste spokeswoman Erin Treadwell says that they can immediately place used sharps in a disposal container. These containers are available at local medical supply stores or a local pharmacy. Since August 2010, Sacramento passed an ordinance “requiring all retailers who sell sharps within city limits to provide collection points to drop off used sharps.” Receiving sharps in the mail? Many suppliers will provide envelopes that will allow the customers to put their sharps in an envelope that offer safe returns. This process, according to Treadwell, has been approved by the U.S. Postal Service.