Category Archives: Sharps Disposal

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Walgreens and CVS Install Drug Take Back Kiosks.

The United States is in the middle of an opioid epidemic.

Every day, 134 people die of opiate-related overdoses.

So many people are overdosing from heroin and synthetic opioids that the U.S. life expectancy shortened two years in a row. In the first advisory form a Surgeon General since 2005, the Surgeon General urges more people to carry naloxone, an opioid antidote.

The Federal government’s research shows that a large driver of the epidemic is perscription drug abuse. The majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from friends and family, often coming straight out of the medicine cabinet.

Proper disposal of unused or expired prescription drugs is an effective way to improve the opioid crisis.

Some people are not able to get to the DEA’s drug take back locations.

CVS and Walgreens are implementing another way to help customers dispose of their leftover prescription drugs.

Up until 2014, pharmacies weren’t allowed to take back prescriptions. People could only dispose of drugs in police departments- and for obvious reasons, not everyone was comfortable with that.

In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued new regulations due to the growing opioid problem that expanded the ways to safely return and dispose of prescription drugs.

In 2016, Walgreens began adding drug disposal kiosks in its chain stores.

Walgreens now has 600 drug disposal kiosks and has collected more than 270 tons of medications so far. It is partnering with AmerisourceBergen, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Pfizer and Prime Therapeutics to add kiosks to another 900 locations.

The kiosks for drug returns and disposal look kind of like a mail box.

Consumers simply drop the unwanted medication into the slot and the drugs get picked up by a medical waste company as the kiosk fills up.

Rick Gates, Walgreens‘ senior vice president of pharmacy operations, who was involved in the kiosk idea since its inception, says that initially the medical waste company planned on emptying the kiosks once a month, but they were filling up so quickly they had to clear them once a week or once every other week.

CVS Health is in the process of installing 750 kiosks in various chain stores. It’s already donated more than 800 units to police departments.

So far, CVS has collected nearly 158 metric tons of medications from drug take back kiosks.

It sounds simple to install a kiosk, but complying with drug disposal regulations is complicated. Each unit takes time and planning to make sure it is up to regulation standard. Some of the requirements are that the kiosk be bolted to the floor (so nobody can just make off with it). The kiosk has to be locked at all times to prevent abuse of the drugs dropped off in it, and the medical waste disposal company has to be up to the DEA’s protocols as well.

Drug disposal kiosks in pharmacies are not yet available everywhere.

There are other companies working on other options for Household Waste Disposal, besides for the good work being done by the Walgreen’s, CVS, the DEA’s National perscription drug take back day and police stations and fire houses. For example, Google put out a locator tool for drug take back locations that works by zip code. We will keep reporting about various household waste disposal options that will be offered by Walgreens, CVS, and other companies all working hard to come up with practical solutions for consumers.

We will continue to add updates about the opioid crisis and new solutions. It is time that we all did our little part to help save lives and reduce opioid addiction.


We are MedWaste Management – California’s medical waste disposal experts!

Established in 2008, MedWaste Management brings great benefit to the healthcare industry and the general public alike. We publish this blog to to spread useful and practical information to help people stay safe, smart and healthy!

Call us with any questions or to start service at (866) 254-5105. We are always happy to speak!

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Medical Waste Disposal for Clinics

Medical Waste Disposal for Clinics

Do Your Clinic Workers Know What Does Not Go In the Red Bag?

When discussing medical waste disposal for clinics, a lot of emphasis is put on the red bags, and what can go inside. These seem like the ideal solution for all the medical waste that a clinic generates daily, yet there are certain items that they should not hold. Make sure that your employees are just as knowledgeable about what stays out of the red bag as they are about what needs to go inside.

Sharps Waste

Clinic workers know that needles and syringes belong in their little red boxes after use, but can overlook other sharps. Sharps medical waste is defined as being any object that has been contaminated with a pathogen or that may become contaminated with a pathogen through handling. It is also capable of penetrating or cutting skin or packing material… like a red bag. In addition to needles, sharps can include broken glass, scalpels, slides, capillary tubes and broken plastic. All of these must first go inside of a rigid medical waste container before they can be placed inside of the red bag.

Pharmaceutical Drug Waste

Drugs that meet the criteria for being a hazardous waste need to be separated from your clinic’s red bag medical waste. The best practice is to have hazardous pharmaceuticals incinerated at a state approved medical waste disposal facility. Train your staff to learn which drugs are deemed hazardous and set aside separate bins for their disposal.

Universal Garbage

It is a waste of resources to allow for everyday garbage and recyclable materials to be carried out of a clinic in red bags. This includes food scraps, packaging material, light bulbs and paper. Initiate a recycling program for non-contaminated plastics, glass and metals, and dispose of the rest with your regular garbage pick up.

Chemotherapy Equipment

While trace chemotherapy waste may go into a red bag, it must be marked appropriately for incineration. Trace chemotherapy waste is defined as having less than 3% of the original contents by weight. Empty drug vials, syringes, IV bags and tubing used for chemotherapy will all need to be separately sorted and bagged inside the clinic.

Bulk Liquids

Small quantities of liquids in stoppered vials can be placed inside of red bags, but bulk fluids may not unless they have been properly solidified first. Even then, your clinic will have to verify that the liquid is viable for red bag waste disposal. Liquid medical waste of any type should always be secured in containers specially designed to reduce the risk of leakage.

A mistake made in some clinics is the assumption that the red bags are the catch all for all of your waste. This can be a dangerous practice as well as a waste of resources. School clinic employees thoroughly on the use of red bags to ensure that yours are being used properly, and in compliance with the state and federal regulations.

Medical Sharps Disposal and Management

Selecting the Right Sharps Disposal Container For Your Facility

Accidental needle sticks are one of the biggest injury risks to workers in the medical profession. The proper disposal of sharps is meant to mitigate that risk, but only works when you have the right types of containers in the right places. Carefully evaluate your needs for sharps containers before hand to institute procedures that are effective at maintaining patient care while keeping staff members safe.

When choosing a sharps disposal system for your hospital, doctor’s office or other clinical setting, you should be looking at the following factors:

  • The layout of your facility
  • The specific procedures practiced in various rooms
  • Your protocols for patient care
  • The convenience of the attending medical staff
  • The comfort of the patients

Following the following guidelines set forth by NIOSH will assist you in finding the correct places for sharp containers in your facility; “Sharps disposal containers that are functional, accessible, secure from patient or visitor tampering (if necessary), visible, and convenient to use will decrease the risk of percutaneous sharps injury”.

Requirements for Sharps Containers in a Medical Setting

The OSHA regulations are clear when it comes to the design of sharps disposal containers. They must be closable containers made from a puncture proof material. They cannot allow for leaks from the bottom or sides and they should be labeled or color coded for easy identification. To protect patients and other non-medical personnel, these boxes must be locked and secured in place to prevent anyone from being able to access the contents inside.

In regards to their use, sharps containers must remain upright and be easily accessible in a location that a health care worker would anticipate. This could be on the wall behind a procedure table or secured to the table top. Sharps containers cannot be allowed to overfill, and must be replaced routinely with an empty one.

In settings where only one patient is seen inside of a room at a time, there is no need for more than one sharps disposal container. This changes in emergency type settings where you may need to place multiple containers strategically around the room for the convenience of your medical staff.

Put yourself in the shoes of the clinician, nurse, or physician that will be providing care to the patient to help in choosing the right location. For ideal safety and effective medical sharps disposal the container should be within arm’s reach after administering any medication or vaccination. Staff members should not have to move items out of the way to access the sharps container, or walk a long distance. The longer the used sharp is in their possession, the greater the risk of accident or harm.

Sharp containers come in various sizes to suit different needs. To optimize the placement of yours, consider asking for help from your medical waste disposal service provider. By evaluating your needs and assessing the layout of your institution, they can help you in the choosing the right types of boxes and locations for the safety of your patients.

Medical Garbage Disposal and Management

Medical Garbage Disposal and Management

The 7 Easy Steps of Medical Garbage Management and Disposal

All healthcare facilities, regardless of their scope, that generates medical waste has a responsibility to dispose of that waste properly. Hospitals, clinics, physician offices, dental practices and more must adopt a system of packaging medical waste inside of labeled bags for transport. This may sound complicated at first, but once your employees have the 7 steps down, it will quickly become second nature in your facility:

  1. Set up medical garbage disposal containers in appropriate areas. Sharp boxes should be placed close to where needles and syringes are regularly used. Red bag containers that are corrugated boxes should be sealed on the bottom with packing tape. Those, or your plastic garbage bins, should be kept in an area where unauthorized individuals cannot easily access them.
  2. Use your red bags to line medical garbage containers. Red biohazard bags that are labeled must be placed inside of the containers. These should be large enough so that it extends the top with flaps that overlap the sides of the container. Be sure that the weight limit of the bag is in line with the amount of medical garbage expected to be generated in that area.
  3. Place only the acceptable medical garbage inside the containers. Red boxes are meant for sharps only, and your red bag containers for other medical waste. Ensure that employees are educated on other types of medical waste disposal procedures if your facility is dealing with pathological or chemotherapy waste, as these will be treated differently.
  4. When the container has reached its capacity, it is important that an individual trained in the transport of medical garbage remove it from the container wearing gloves. It should be gathered by the four sides of the bag that overlap the container. Those flaps should be twisted to seal the contents of the bag before being secured with a tie, tape or knot to prevent leaking.
  5. Check the markings on the bag to ensure they are labeled properly before applying the bar code label to the bag that is supplied by your medical garbage disposal service provider.
  6. Seal the tops of the containers used to collect the medical garbage. Clear packing tape can be used for boxes, while reusable containers will have enclosures in place to secure the lid.
  7. Transport the medical garbage to a secure location in your facility for pick-up by a licensed service provider. This area should be inaccessible to anyone who is not staffed at the facility.

Once your medical facility’s staff has gotten used to the procedures involved with medical garbage management, it will become second nature inside of your institution. Accept nothing less than full compliance with these policies from all employees, as they are critical in keeping your hospital or doctor’s office free from contagious disease.

How often should I schedule pick up for my medical waste disposal?

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As a matter of fact, there aren’t any Federal infectious medical waste disposal regulations at this time. This issue was left for each State to decide what their regulations will be.

OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard does not address this issue either.

In California, the storage times are different for biohazardous waste disposal and sharps disposal.

A facility that generates less than 20 pounds of biohazardous waste per month may store it for 30 days.”

That means pickup for a small medical waste generator should be scheduled for about once a month.

The waste may be stored for up to 90 days if kept at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Good storage habits may allow a less frequent pickup schedule.

Good storage habits would mean storing the medical waste containers in a place that is easily cleaned, not permeable (in case of spills) and made of durable materials that would provide protection from water, rain and wind so the containers remain dependably intact. Good storage would keep the containers in a place with limited access, preferably in a place where only trained employees can enter, so that the chance of damage, leakage or spills is minimal.

Good storage would be a place where the floor is not carpeted, has no open seams, and if there are floor drains, they must discharge to a sanitary sewer disposal system. The area should be kept clean and well-maintained, be in good repair, and if there are biohazardous waste containers in there, the international biohazard symbol needs to be posted at the entry.

Once a medical waste disposal box is filled, it needs to be packaged. Then, it should be picked up within 30 days. The countdown begins once the box is packaged.

However, sharps disposal containers have a different time frame. They can remain in place until they are ready to be changed, which is just slightly before the level reaches the “full” line. So, if you are a generator of mainly sharps disposal, like a tattoo parlor, the frequency of the medical waste pick-up would depend on the frequency of your sharps disposal containers reaching the full lines.

Hospitals and Nursing Homes are under other State regulations that require biohazard and regular trash to be removed every day or sooner, if needed. This is to protect patients and visitors, who are also at risk of exposure, especially little children, who are curious and may try to check out any unfamiliar things in their environment. Other people at risk for contamination and infection are support service workers. Cleaning personnel and laundry workers are the first people exposed to medical waste that is improperly disposed of or left around.

(Again, the sharps disposal containers are not included in the daily removal requirement.)

If you’re a small medical waste disposal generator, and you’re still not sure how often to schedule pick-up for your medical waste, here are some indicators:

To determine how frequently your facility needs to schedule pickup by a medical waste disposal company, you should weigh the amount of biohazardous waste (sharps not included) that your business generates in a month, and call to consult with our OSHA-trained experts.

You’ll know if your medical waste has been lying around for too long. One indicator that it’s beyond time to schedule a pickup is odor. Odors can indicate improper storage of your medical waste disposal (like a hot, moist boiler room), or be indicative of the type of waste you’re disposing of, but it’s a pretty reliable yardstick for the frequency of your pickup.

Don’t wait until it becomes that clear, though. Contact us for help to determine how often you should be scheduling pickups before the situation gets smelly.



Guard your Sharps Disposal

The sharps disposal is one area in the medical waste disposal field that has come up over and over again in urban legends, TV shows, and other random horror stories. How many times have you heard about the HIV-infected needles supposedly left in coin slots, under gas pump handles, or in cinema seats to infect unsuspecting people? Or about drug addicts that come up with some excuse to see the physician and steal the sharps disposal box when his back is turned, plus whatever other parapharnelia and meds they can get their hands on?

By now, everyone should be aware of the importance of proper sharps disposal.

There are about 9 million Americans who use needles or other sharps to manage their medical conditions (or their pet’s medical conditions) at home, at work, or while traveling. This amounts to more than 3 billion used needles and other sharps that must be disposed of outside health care settings each year.

Examples of sharps used outside of health care settings may include:

  • Needles – hollow needles that are used for injecting medications/drugs under the skin
  • Syringes – used to inject medication/drugs into the body, or withdraw body fluids.
  • Lancets, (“fingerstick” devices)– little prick devices that use a short, two-edged blade to draw just a few drops of blood for various testing. Lancets are used for diabetes most commonly. They can also be used for placing on slides in a home lab or live blood analysis.
  • Auto Injectors- these include epinephrine and insulin pens – syringes that are already filled with medication so people can self-inject them into their bodies.
  • Infusion sets – tubing systems with a needle that are used to deliver drugs to the body.
  • Connection needles/sets – needles that connect to a tube used to transfer fluids in and out of the body. Generally, this is used for patients on home hemodialysis.

Other illnesses that necessitate needle usage -and therefore proper sharps disposal at home- can include arthritis, cancer, allergies, diabetes, hepatitis, infertility, migraines, MS, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, even psoriasis, and of course HIV/AIDS.


Used sharps disposal items are dangerous to people -and pets!- if they are disposed of without proper medical waste disposal. Besides for causing injury, they can spread infections like Hepatitis B (HBV), Hep C (HCV) and HIV. (Those are the most common infections that come up when dealing with bad sharps disposal.)

If sharps disposal items are not placed in a proper sharps disposal container, they can put trash and sewage workers, janitors, housekeepers, household members and children at risk of being harmed. NEVER put loose sharps disposal materials -like loose needles- in household or public trash cans, recycling bins, or flush them down toilets.

Pet owners who use needles to give medicine to their pets should follow the same sharps disposal guidelines used for humans.

There are sharps disposal containers that can be bought online, individually, or purchased through our website as a one-time deal, no contracts. On our site, guidelines are included with the purchase.

On the bright side, if there has been a breach of sharps disposal protocol, it’s not as bad as you may imagine. According to Merck, someone who is accidentally pricked with an HIV-infected needle has approximately a 1 in 300 chance of contracting the disease. This risk increases, of course, if the sharps disposal item (needle, in this case) penetrates deeply, or if the needle contains blood infected with HIV as opposed to just being covered in it. Infected fluid that may spray from a sharps disposal item into a health care worker’s mouth or eyes has less than a 1 in 1,000 per cent chance of causing infection. A combination of antiretroviral drugs, when taken soon after exposure, can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of becoming infected from an accident. This is the recommended course of action.

It is estimated that in 2006, for example, approximately 57 health care workers contracted HIV from needle pricks. The estimated number of accidental pricks that occur in medical waste disposal settings each year is 800,000.

Another reason to guard your sharps disposal is theft. Here are some stories I got, floating around the internet stratosphere:

“A Cincinnati woman faces theft charges after Cincinnati Police say she stole from a sharps disposal container inside Christ Hospital in Mount Auburn. According to court records, Ashley Jones, 23, broke into a sharps container just before 4 p.m. Monday and stole what was inside the metal container, including two vials of morphine. Jones is charged with theft of drugs and vandalism”.

-November 5, 2009.

“A man was allegedly caught stealing syringes and controlled substances from hospital containers earlier this year.

The 27-year-old was arrested on complaints of larceny of a controlled dangerous substance and possession of a controlled dangerous substance after hospital security detained him around 4 a.m. inside the medical center. According to his arrest report, the man was carrying a trash can filled with needles and 100 to 200 discarded vials containing small amounts of drugs when hospital security confronted him.

The hospital is investigating how the man, who falsely claimed to be a janitor, was able to get to the containers without employee access.

Police are investigating whether the arrest is related to the discovery of discarded medical waste containers in a previous week. Those containers, which were traced back to the medical center, had syringes and blood in them.”
-August 27, 2012

“A young woman stole a “sharps disposal box” from Hackettstown Regional Medical Center and removed needles and medications from it, police said.

On Aug. 24 at about 4:53 a.m. police were called to the hospital to investigate a theft. They found the suspect, Brittany Dill, 24, of Hackettstown in the parking lot.

Under questioning, Dill admitted taking the sharps disposal box and removing the needles and medications, police said. The sharps disposal box was later found in a restroom at the hospital.

Dill was searched and found to be in possession of eight bags of heroin, Suboxone, two vials of Lorazepam and one smoking pipe, police said.

She was charged with three counts of possession of a controlled dangerous substance, two counts of theft of movable property, criminal mischief, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a hypodermic needle. Dill was lodged in the Warren County Correctional Facility with bail set at $30,000. “

Please guard your sharps disposal, and if you are using sharps outside a health care setting, please get a good container to use for proper sharps disposal. Take your sharps disposal seriously!