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Sharps Waste Disposal: From Household Sharps Disposal to Developing Nations Around the World

The infamous syringe tide in 1987 kickstarted a flurry of concerns about the proper disposal of medical waste. The event is well-known in the medical waste community as a wake-up call about the potential harms of medical waste and the need for regulatory oversight on medical facilities and clinics.

The syringe tide headed a movement of medical waste regulations that continue to this day. And, yet, something not too unlike syringe tide happened in 2021, when hundreds of syringes washed up on beaches along the Jersey Shore. Reports suggested that the arrival of most of these syringes might have been due to storms, the surrounding sewer systems, or diabetic patients flushing their syringes down the toilet.

So what are some of the main concerns regarding the disposal of sharps? How have states laid out rules to improve this?

The Important Work of Sharps Disposal in Texas

The disposal of medical waste is regulated by state entities. Since 1988, the EPA has only taken on an advisory role and has had no authority. There are federal agencies, however, that have their own rules regarding the disposal of medical waste including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), OSHA, and the FDA.

Dos and Don’ts for Individual Users & Syringe Disposal in Texas

Regulations surrounding the disposal of medical waste can help people with functional tips about what to do and what not to do. Many households or lodgings (such as hotels) that produce small amounts of medical waste are still subject to the safety standards of the state.

These dos and don'ts are part of Texas’ Commission on Environmental Quality.

Dos for the disposal of medical waste from a household:

  • Place needles in a hard plastic container and ensure that the lid is tightly secured. Label the container properly.

  • When the container is full, wrap it up with strong tape to secure the lid

  • Dispose of the container in the trash

Don’ts for the disposal of medical waste from households:

  • Do not use glass or clear plastic containers

  • Avoid thin plastics such as soda bottles

  • Do not place them in the recycling bin

  • Do not throw lose syringes in the household garbage

How to Dispose of Sharps Waste from a Health-Care Related Facility

Health care facilities have several options when it comes to medical waste. Facilities can take charge of their own medical waste disposal or hire a professional medical waste company to take care of the issue from when it’s first thrown in its disposal container to when it reaches its final disposal destination.

Facilities can:

  • Transport the waste to a designated medical waste facility

  • Hire a transporter of medical waste to ensure proper disposal

  • Treat the waste on-site using the designated methods

A Brief History of the Syringe and Hypodermic Needle: How It Became Common Medical Waste

Before hypodermic needles there were syringes. As the legend has it, the first hypodermic needle was created by Francis Rynd in Dublin, Ireland. Syringes were central to a lot of medical advancements and trials in early medicine. It was around 1853 that the syringe was combined with the hypodermic needle. It was primarily used to inject morphine into humans and that design has remained widely unchanged throughout the decades, although materials used included glass and metal. It was until the 1950s that interchangeable parts and plastics were used for disposable syringes.

Sharps Disposal Around the World — A Quick Glimpse

Every country produces some kind of medical waste. According to the World Health Organization, 16 billion injections are administered around the world. At the same time, open burning or incineration of wastes (as is customary in some developing nations) can result in harmful emissions. Yet, a lot of that waste is not properly discarded. So while developed nations like the United States and Europe have had regulations and restrictions in place regarding the disposal of sharps and needles, not every country in the world has followed suit quite yet.

In developing nations, it is often a question of resources and facilities.

  • Countries like India, for example, have medical regulations in the books and yet most of the medical sharps waste is dumped in the open and collected with the general waste.

  • In many countries in Africa, they lack policy regarding how to discard this type of medical waste

  • Other developing countries in Asia, for example, lack awareness and stated waste management practices

Why We Should Be Thankful of Stringent State Regulations

While it produces some anxiety for healthcare facilities, medical waste disposal regulation is truly an attempt to protect the general public from unnecessary contamination, pollution, and infection.

Here’s why we should celebrate the consistency and enforcement of proper waste management:

  • The safety measures are designed to protect patients and healthcare workers and staff

  • Advanced modes of medical waste management include the autoclave, which produces no toxic material

  • Prevent infection among the general public, healthcare workers, and even the environment

Get the Medical Waste Management to Give You Peace of Mind

Whether you are working in a large hospital, urgent care, veterinary clinic, or other healthcare facilities, the use of sharps is likely an everyday reality. Make sure your facility is in compliance and doing everything possible to ensure proper and timely disposal.

With Mediwaste Disposal in El Paso, you don’t have to worry about it. We do the dirty work. Call us, and get it taken care of.

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