Properly disposing of waste is an essential thing that every business needs to get right. While it can seem like a simple process, there are many rules and regulations that companies have to abide by when it comes to throwing out sharps. How does your business handle its waste disposal?
What Is Sharps Waste?
The word “sharps” refers to any kind of waste that can pierce or puncture the skin. Not necessarily referring to an object designed for that purpose, many everyday household items can be defined as sharps; they can cause injuries if they are thrown out with regular waste. Some common items that are classified as sharps are:
- Metal wire.
- Teeth or bone fragments.
- Razor blades.
- Broken glass or sharp plastics.
- Piercing needles.
- Tattoo needles.
- Hypodermic needles.
- Scalpels and blades.
Related: How To Sterilize Needles
Does My Organization Need to Dispose of Sharps Waste?
Medical institutions, like hospitals and doctor’s offices, are places of business that always require sharps disposal bins due to their frequent use of sharp instruments. These places will almost always be handling other types of hazardous waste and typically require multiple different ways to dispose of medical waste.
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Schools are not only home to first aid offices, but also contain many different items identified as sharps: scissors, staples, pins, etc. Sharps disposal bins are required for rooms that injured students use to take care of their wounds, like a nurse’s office; this is also true for any other public place with a first aid service, like parks and festivals.
Restaurants & Food Service
There are plenty of sharp objects floating around in areas where food is prepared, and they are all required to have access to sharps disposal bins. Things like knives and broken dishes must be disposed of appropriately.
Businesses that use needles and other sharp tools regularly, like tailors and clothing producers, need to ensure that their sharps are correctly taken care of.
Cosmetic & Beauty Companies
Tattoo parlors and hair salons rely on sharps to provide their services. They absolutely need sharps waste disposal bins; this is especially true for businesses that also perform procedures like botox, microblading, and other cosmetics tasks.
Why Should Sharps Waste Be Disposed of Separately?
Sharps can cause injury to the person disposing of them as well as the person who is removing the waste. Sharps come with the risks of scratching or puncturing the skin and can lead to infection.
Common household sharps are unlikely to contain hazardous materials, but it is always possible that it has traces of an infectious substance on its surface; a minuscule amount of blood is all that it takes to transmit disease.
Not only is the proper disposal of sharps an ethical and practical matter, but it is a legal one as well.
Related: What Happens to Medical Waste?
What’s the Best Way to Get Rid of Needles or Other Sharps?
All sharps and needles must be placed in a sharps disposal bin immediately after use to reduce the risk of cuts, punctures, or sticks from the sharps.
Sharps containers should be out of reach of pets and children.
Sharps disposal rules vary depending on your location. Make sure to dispose of the bins and follow your local guidelines properly. The health department and trash removal services can help you find the correct way of doing this.
Here are some of the common ways to dispose of sharps:
Supervised or Drop Box Collection Sites
In many areas, you are able to take your sharps disposal bins to certain collection sites and drop them off. These places are usually at hospitals, pharmacies, medical waste facilities, or local law enforcement offices. These services are typically free or have a low fee.
Public Household Hazardous Waste Collection Sites
Local household waste collection sites are generally the same places that you can dispose of other hazardous materials, like oil, cleaners, and paints. Most cities offer these services for little or no charge.
Residential Special Waste Pick-up Services
You may have a specialized waste pick-up service where trained professionals will collect the sharps disposals from your home. You typically have to pay for these services, and they usually have specific requirements regarding what they will collect. Depending on your area, you may have to call and schedule a service, or there may be a regular schedule that they do pick-ups on.
Some FDA-cleared sharps can be mailed to a collection site to be properly disposed of, usually at your expense. Fees for these services can vary wildly depending on the size and type of sharps. Manufacturers that offer mail-back programs usually have specific requirements on how you need to label and ship them.
Sharps Disposal Bins
Sharps disposal bins typically come in four different colors that correspond to the types of waste they contain:
Bins with orange lids are for products that don’t contain any pharmaceutically contaminated waste. It includes things like knives and stationery supplies, but can also be used for any items that can pierce or puncture the skin.
Bins with yellow lids are for any items that are either partially or fully empty and contain products that are contaminated with medicinal supplies.
Bins with purple lids are used to dispose of items contaminated with cytostatic or cytotoxic chemicals, like those used in chemotherapy or hormone therapy.
Bins with blue lids are made for expired medicine and anything that deals with pharmaceuticals, like masks, gloves, and bottles.
Related: Exposure Control Plans
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