Why You Should Be Careful with Sharps

Improper disposal of used or unwanted “sharps” (needles, syringes, lancets and other sharps items) can cause a serious injury and pose health risks to the public and waste workers. Waste workers are exposed to potential needle stick injuries and potential infection when inappropriate containers break open inside garbage trucks or sharps become exposed when sent to recycling facilities. Housekeepers and janitors may also be injured when loose sharps poke through trash bags. Used needles can also cause painful infections and transmit serious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis.

The Law

Beginning on September 1, 2008, state law made it illegal to dispose of home-generated sharps waste in the trash or recycling containers, and requires that all sharps waste be transported to a collection center in an approved bio-hazard sharps container.

The California Health and Safety Code defines “home-generated sharps waste” as hypodermic needles, pen needles, intravenous needles, lancets, and other devices that are used to penetrate the skin for the delivery of medications derived from a household, including a multifamily residence or household.

Senate Bill 486, passed in October 2009, required that by July 1, 2010:“…all pharmaceutical manufacturers that sell or distribute a medication in California that is usually intended to be self-injected at home through the use of a hypodermic needle, pen needle, intravenous needle or any similar device, to 1) submit a plan describing their actions to support or provide for the safe collection and proper disposal of the waste devices, and 2) educate consumers about safe sharps management and collection opportunities.”