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This policy is designed to meet Seattle-King County Solid Waste Disposal Regulations and to protect staff who are at risk in the handling of waste sharps. Procedures for non-sharp waste (e.g., non-sharp infectious, chemical, radioactive, unbroken glassware, and non-hazardous waste) are not affected by this policy.

9.1 Definition

Sharps include:

  1. Needles (whether or not attached to a syringe or covered by a plastic guard);
  2. IV tubing with needle attached;
  3. Glass Pasteur pipettes;
  4. Disposable glass pipettes;
  5. Scalpels, razor blades, and lancets; and
  6. Broken glass and splintered plastic, when contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious material.

Non-contaminated broken lab glass and plastic such as beakers and bottles are NOT considered sharps for disposal purposes. Refer to Section 9.7, Laboratory Glass Waste Disposal Procedures, for additional information.

9.2 Categories of Sharps Waste

Sharps waste categories include:

  1. Sharps, which are either contaminated or not contaminated with biological material;
  2. Radioactive sharps, which are sharps contaminated with radioactive material; and
  3. Chemical sharps (e.g. broken mercury thermometers, or syringes contaminated with chemotherapy drugs).

Laboratory glassware is not considered sharps waste for disposal purposes, but may be sharp enough to puncture normal garbage bags and endanger waste handlers. Lab glass includes items such as broken glass beakers or bottles, plastic pipettes and pipette tips.

9.3 Sharps Waste Minimization

Although sharps containers are often conveniently placed throughout the lab, it is important to remember these containers are for sharps waste only, and are not to be used for non-sharp biohazard waste or regular trash. Disposal of non-sharp biohazard waste in a sharps container adds significant costs to waste management.

The following are examples of items that should not be disposed of as sharps waste:

  1. Gloves;
  2. Paper towels;
  3. Lab glass (includes plastic pipettes and pipette tips);
  4. Chemical bottles;
  5. Petri dishes or culture plates
  6. Plastic vials and conical tubes.

9.4 Sharps Waste Disposal Procedures

Sharps are collected in standard Fred Hutch sharps containers. These sharps containers are available in multiple sizes from the Stockroom.

The standard (non-radioactive, non-chemical) sharps waste pickup procedure is as follows:

  1. When sharps container is 2/3 to 3/4 full, secure the lid.
  2. With a permanent marker, write the PI name, room number, and date on the sharps container.
  3. Place the sharps container in the hallway for pickup by Housekeeping staff.

9.5 Radioactive Sharps Waste Disposal Procedures

Radioactive sharps are collected in standard sharps containers available through the stockroom. The radioactive sharps waste pickup procedure is as follows:

  1. Label the sharps container with a radioactive waste label, described in Section 7.6.
  2. When possible, keep isotopes segregated in separate radioactive sharps containers as described in Section 7.
  3. When sharps container is 2/3 to 3/4 full, secure the lid.
  4. Arrange for a hazardous waste pickup from EH&S as described in Section 4.4.

Attach a completed radioactive waste label, and indicate that the contents are not contaminated with biological material. EH&S collects containers of radioactive sharps.

9.6 Chemical Sharps Waste Disposal Procedures

Chemical sharps such as broken mercury thermometers or syringes contaminated with chemotherapy agents must not be disposed of in regular red sharps containers.

For disposal of sharps contaminated with chemotherapy drugs, refer to Section 4.5.

For disposal of broken mercury thermometers, refer to Section 4.7.

Contact EH&S for proper disposal instructions for other sharps contaminated with hazardous chemicals.

9.7 Laboratory Glass Waste Disposal Procedures

Laboratory glass (includes plastic pipettes and pipette tips) should be disposed of in rigid cardboard boxes. Boxes designed for this purpose are available commercially, though any other sturdy cardboard box could be used. When full, the box should be taped up and marked Broken Glass and placed in the hallway for pickup by custodians. Never use these boxes for disposal of sharps, chemical bottles containing EH&S inventory barcodes, or non-broken drink glasses that could be recycled.