Sharps & Medication
Household Hazardous Waste
Sharps Waste Disposal
- Pharmaceutical manufacturers' sharps plans have been published as required by Senate Bill 486.
Check for Free Options
- Free mail-back programs or free sharps containers may be available from your:
- Rigid plastic sharps containers such as bleach or detergent bottles are allowed in: Fresno, Mariposa, Merced (PDF, 63 KB), Napa (PDF, 570 KB), Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, Stanislaus, and Yuba (PDF, 1.4 MB) counties.
Find a Drop-off Location
- Your doctor’s office or hospital may collect only their patients’ sharps (but check first)
- Other sites include pharmacies and “household hazardous waste (HHW) facilities” listed here:
- CalRecycle’s disposal facility list*
- California Department of Public Health (CDPH) list (PDF, 772 KB)
* The California Department of Public Health regulates medical waste and maintains the PDF list above. While CalRecycle lists sites here for convenience, you should contact your local enforcement agency to find home-generated sharps collection locations in your area or to correct their listings.
Explore Other Options
- Needle Destruction Devices. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently only lists the “Disintegrator” as a needle destruction device approved for use by self-injectors.
- Mail-Back Service. A list of sharps waste mail-back services (PDF, 230 KB) authorized for use in California is available from CDPH.
Unused Sharps Disposal
Needle exchange programs (PDF, 46 KB) may accept unused sharps in their original unopened packaging—but call first to confirm. Otherwise, these materials would fit the definition of home-generated sharps waste, (PDF, 639 KB) which are banned from household trash disposal (see “The Law” below). After unused sharps are collected, potentially compacted, and hand-sorted, the source of a waste disposal worker’s needlestick may still be unknown, still requiring six months of testing for HIV or Hepatitis infection. If reuse options are not available, the steps above should also be used to dispose of unused sharps.
Businesses such as hospitals, clinics, and other smaller businesses generating sharps should contact the California Department of Public Health’s Medical Waste Management Program for information on how to manage that waste under California’s Medical Waste Management Act (PDF, 639 KB). Businesses generating small amounts of sharps waste may find mail-back services (PDF, 286 KB) to be most cost-effective compared to contracting with an authorized medical waste transporter (PDF, 71 KB). Otherwise, you can also contact your city or county household hazardous waste (HHW) facility to see if they accept conditionally exempt small quantity generator (CESQG) waste (i.e., small business waste) for a fee.
Why Is It Important?
Improper sharps disposal can affect janitors, maids, pest control workers, groundskeepers, waste management workers, and children or household pets among others. Roughly 25% to 45% of all facilities processing household trash (besides recycling) in California have workers hand-sorting recyclable material out of that trash. A single worker’s on-the-job needlestick can mean weeks of taking drugs to prevent the spread of infection, with side effects including nausea, depression, and extreme fatigue as well as months waiting for expensive periodic tests to reveal whether they contracted life-threatening HIV/AIDs or hepatitis B or C. A 2008 study suggested that "nationwide each year 25%...or roughly 150,000 to 200,000 needlesticks occurred outside the health services industry for a cost of $38 million."
Hundreds of needles found at a Clark County Recycling Center
Video, Fox 12, Oregon, 2 min, 36 sec.
State law (H&SC §118286) makes it illegal to dispose of home-generated sharps waste (hypodermic needles, pen needles, intravenous needles, lancets, and other devices that are used to penetrate the skin for the delivery of medications) in the trash or recycling containers, and requires that all sharps waste be transported to a collection center in a sharps container approved by the local enforcement agency.
Sharps Manufacturer and Collector Resources. Legislation and ordinances, stakeholder involvement, and educational materials to help sharps manufacturers and collectors implement safe and efficient programs.
Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Sharps Disposal Plans. Learn about the law, SB 486, and view a list of manufacturers' sharps collection and disposal plans that CalRecycle has received.
Environmental Protection Agency. EPA publications and other sharps disposal guidance.
Food and Drug Administration. Needlestick guidance and other background material.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State and Community policies and guidance.
California Product Stewardship Council. Local programs, media, studies, policies, and legislation.
Product Stewardship Institute. PSI’s work to facilitate sharps dialogues.
For More Information
Stay informed about the latest developments in CalRecycle’s efforts to promote safe disposal of sharps waste.
- Subscribe to the Sharps and Medication Disposal Listserv to receive periodic information about sharps.
- You can review previous messages on the PharmaSharps Listserv Archive regarding legislation, regulations, policy, lawsuits, and grant program highlights.
- Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or more information.
Sharps Waste Disposal Program http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/HomeHazWaste/Sharps/
Medication Waste Disposal http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/HomeHazWaste/Medications/