California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Sharps Waste Disposal

Sharps Manufacturer and Collector Resources

Fast Facts

(Fast Facts sources are listed by numbers in Footnotes below.)

How Many Sharps?

  • 936 million1 needles are used by self-injectors in California each year
  • 1,0002 to 24,0003 needlesticks occur outside the healthcare industry in California each year
  • 5%4 of all needles are collected by California HHW programs (excluding privately-funded programs)

How Many Self-Injectors?

  • 700,000 to 1.4 million Americans have hepatitis B5
  • 3 million Americans have hepatitis C5
  • 80% of all self-injectors are diabetics; 14% are illicit drug users (in 2011)
  • 1 in 3 to 1 in 5 Americans are expected to have diabetes by 20506; up from 1 in 10 in 2010

Where do Sharps go?

  • 43% of all self-injectors throw needles in the trash7
  • 24% to 45% of all California facilities hand sort municipal trash

What are the Costs?

  • $154 to $2,411 is the typical range of testing/treatment costs for a single needlestick8
  • $4.6 million is spent in California every year due to needlesticks, primarily in testing for infection and including work loss while testing3
  • $577,100 is the potential cost of a single liver transplant from contracting hepatitis B or C9

What are the Next Steps?

  • 31% of all self-injectors say the greatest barrier to proper disposal is knowing where to take it; 19% because the store won’t take it; 13% due to cost; 9% from needing a proper sharps container10
  • 26% (the majority) of all self-injectors say brochures at the point of sale are best for sharps outreach10

Why Become a Collector?

Needlesticks already have high costs for some of our most vulnerable populations and occupations and more could be done to reduce them. Diabetics are a large (80%) and growing segment of the self-injector population that pharmacies consider good repeat customers. A leading pharmacist said, “In prescriptions alone, diabetics spend four to six times as much as the ‘average’ pharmacy customer” and regarding the hotly competitive diabetic market, “It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s profitable.”

How to Become a Collector

Follow these steps to become a sharps consolidation point in California:

Legislation and Ordinances

  • Senate Bill 486 requires 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 other similar device, to submit a plan to CalRecycle on or before July 1, 2010, and annually thereafter, that describes how the manufacturer supports the safe collection and proper disposal of the waste devices. The latest pharmaceutical manufacturers' sharps collection and disposal plans are available.
  • San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority's (IWMA) Ordinance No. 2008-2 took effect in Sept. 2008 and requires retailers that sell sharps to accept home-generated sharps waste for proper disposal. The program was initially funded with seed money from a CalRecycle grant, but now retailers fund the program with the IWMA's Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) contractor collecting and consolidating the sharps waste. Prior to the ordinance, the only locations to accept home-generated sharps were the five IWMA HHW facilities. Now 40 retail locations accept sharps from the public.
  • The City of Sacramento's Ordinance No. 2010-018 took effect in August 2010 and requires all retailers, medical offices, hospitals and veterinarian clinics, and other providers that dispense sharps to the general public in the City of Sacramento to provide a sharps collection and disposal program at their locations at no additional cost to the general public. Prior to the ordinance, the only locations to accept home-generated sharps were three Household Hazardous Waste facilities. Now 35 retail locations accept sharps from the public.

Stakeholder Involvement

  • Sharps Stakeholders Meetings were held on March 17, 2008 and Aug. 25, 2008.
  • Sharps Surveys were conducted in 2007 to identify current barriers to the proper disposal of home-generated sharps waste. The information will be used to establish more effective collection programs. By participating, survey takers played a part in helping home sharps users find a more convenient and safe way to dispose of sharps. Survey results are available.
  • Sharps Collected: a chart is available on pounds of sharps reported and collected by household hazardous waste programs per fiscal year since 2005-06.

Educational Materials

CalRecycle developed a poster and brochure to educate persons on proper sharps disposal. These materials can be downloaded or obtained by emailing a request to pharmasharps@calrecycle.ca.gov.

  • A Guide to Syringe Disposal Brochure: Provides more details on where to dispose of sharps, why sharps are dangerous, and how to find locations to properly dispose of sharps. English | Spanish
 
 
  • Syringe Disposal Poster. This 18- by 24-inch poster gives general information on where to dispose of sharps properly.
 

For More Information

Stay informed about the latest developments in CalRecycle’s efforts to promote safe disposal of sharps waste.

Footnotes

1 Based on a ratio of California to national population, and: Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal. (October 13, 2011). Americans Discard 7.8 Billion Needles Every Year. Accessed: June 14, 2014.
2 Video of testimony before the Assembly Joint Informational Hearing on Worker Safety and Sharps Waste in Non-Healthcare Occupations, May, 13, 2014. Glenn Shor, Research and Policy Advisor, Office of the Director, Dept. of Industrial Relations. (See video at 45:50 minutes).
3 Based on a ratio of California to national population, and: Leigh JP, Wiatrowski WJ, Gillen M, Steenland NK: Characteristics of persons and jobs with needlestick injuries in a national data set. Am J Infect Control 2008, 36(6):414-420.
4 CalRecycle. Pounds of Sharps Waste Collected by California Household Hazardous Waste Programs
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surveillance for Viral Hepatitis – United States, 2011. Accessed: September 2, 2015.
6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Number of Americans with Diabetes Projected to Double or Triple by 2050. October 22, 2010. Accessed: September 2, 2015.
7 Average of four surveys showing percent of self-injectors throwing sharps in the trash: 1) CalRecycle. Graphs of Responses to the Sharps Personal Use Survey on Sharps Use and Disposal. (2007). 48% (n=164). 2) US Roper. (2010). 38% (n=unknown). 3) US Roper. Sharps Outside of Medical Facilities (2007). 43% (n=unknown). 4) The Schwartz Group. (May-June 2008). 54% (n=123).
8 Leigh J, Gillen M, Franks P, et al. Costs of needlestick injuries and subsequent hepatitis and HIV infection. Curr Med Res Opin. 2007;23:2093–2105.
9 United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Transplant Living. Estimated U.S. Average 2011 Billed Charges Per Transplant. Accessed: September 2, 2015.
10 CalRecycle. Graphs of Responses to the Sharps Personal Use Survey on Sharps Use and Disposal.

Sharps WasteDisposal home

Last updated: September 15, 2015
Sharps Waste Disposal Program http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/HomeHazWaste/Sharps/
Medication Waste Disposal http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/HomeHazWaste/Medications/
Contact: PharmaSharps@calrecycle.ca.gov