Sharps Waste Disposal


Program News...

Pharmaceutical manufacturers’ sharps plans have been published as required by Senate Bill 486.

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:

*The California Department of Public Health regulates medical waste. 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.

Check for Free Options

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: FresnoMariposaMercedNapaOrangeRiversideSacramentoStanislausYolo, and Yuba counties.

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. Many sharps manufacturers offer mail-back services for their products, contact them directly for disposal options. You can find many sharps manufacturers have already provided CalRecycle with their Disposal Plan and options.

Unused Sharps Disposal

Needle exchange programs 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, 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 dis-pose of unused sharps.

Business-Generated 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 ActPDF download. Businesses generating small amounts of sharps waste may find mail-back services to be most cost-effective compared to contracting with an authorized medical waste transporter.

Why Is It Important?

syringeImproper 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 “nation-wide each year 25%…or roughly 150,000 to 200,000 needlesticks occurred outside the health services industry for a cost of $38 million.”

The Law

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.


CalRecycle Resources

Federal Guidance

Non-Government Organizations

For More Information

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

For more information contact: Medication Waste Disposal,