EPA Changes Sharps Guidelines

Response To Waste Stream Hazard

For decades, the EPA's guidelines for home-use medical sharps disposal were to place them in any sturdy common household container such as a bleach jug or coffee can and deposit them in the household trash. But as the number of injuries and liability claims rise proportional to the increase in used needles and syringes entering the waste stream, the EPA has revised its guidelines.

The new EPA guidelines represent a 180 degree reversal of its previous position. The EPA now states in its new brochure being distrubuted nationwide:

  • Do not dispose of used needles in the garbage
  • Do not flush used needles down the toilet.
  • Do not put used needles in recycling containers.

Instead, the EPA guidelines now provide recommendations for alternative disposal methods, among them mail-back programs, household hazardous waste containers and residential special waste pickup services. But recognizing that community solutions are among the most cost-effective and convenient for users, first on the EPA's list of recommendations is the 'drop-off collection site'. This option home-generated medical waste, which is mostly produced in smaller quantities, to be collected into a larger receptable for transport, which saves on the shipping and handling fees of multiple smaller mailback packages or pick-up calls.

The EPA guidelines also now emphasize the public safety issues in safe needle disposal, and call upon each self-injector to treat ALL needles as if it carried a disease. The emphasis now is on education, prevention, safe sharps disposal, and finding solutions to growing problem.