Skip navigation
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
 CDC Home Search Health Topics A-Z
Safe Community Needle Disposal

Archival Content: 1999-2005

 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Archive archive

 Home
 Comments



 Learn more about HIV Prevention and Injection Drug Users

  Legend
Link to a PDF document Link to a PDF document
Link to a Non-CDC site
Link to a non-CDC site or document and does not necessarily represent the views of CDC
Adobe Acrobat (TM) Reader needs to be installed on your computer in order to read documents in PDF format. Download the Reader.
Safe Community Needle Disposal

GeorgiaGeorgia Public Health Laws and Regulations: Impact on the Safe Disposal of Used Syringes by Individuals in the Community

Content Verified on: February 5, 2003


Summary

Regulatory Environment

  • Syringes generated from single-family homes may be disposed in the trash.
  • Hospitals and other facilities producing biomedical waste must follow Georgia’s biomedical waste disposal rules.
  • Smaller facilities, including community sharps collection sites such as pharmacies, that manage less than 100 pounds of biomedical waste each month, must meet Georgia’s disposal requirements, except for certain parts pertaining to transportation and treatment.

Identified Community-based Disposal Initiatives

  • No community-based disposal initiatives were identified, although this does not mean that none operate in the state.

Introduction

Disposing of contaminated medical waste, including needles, syringes, and other “sharps,” has become an important issue in public health policy. Waste generated in the health care system is highly regulated at the state and federal level. Hospitals and other health care facilities must follow special procedures for handling, transporting, and disposing of medical waste, including used needles that may contain blood. Facilities also have instituted strict safeguards to protect health care workers, housekeeping staff, sanitation workers, and waste haulers from needlesticks because of the risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other bloodborne infections.

Less attention has been paid to safe disposal of used syringes that come from individuals living in the community. However, as many as 3 billion syringes are used each year outside health care facilities: It is estimated that between 0.9 and 1.68 billion insulin injections and up to 1 billion illegal drug injections occur each year in the United States. After being used and discarded, most of these syringes end up in the public solid waste system. This presents a risk of needlestick injury and infection, mostly to solid waste workers. A much smaller number are discarded in public areas, such as parks, presenting a risk to the public.

This section of CDC’s Community Syringe Disposal, Laws and Regulations, and the Public Health web site looks at the public health dimensions of this problem. It describes this state’s solid and infectious waste laws and regulations as they relate to syringe disposal. It provides background information on several key disposal options currently used in the U.S. and describes the impact of this state’s laws and regulations on the way that individuals may use these options. It also includes brief descriptions of some safe disposal programs in the state and provides contact information for the state’s public health and environmental management agencies.

This web site is designed primarily for individuals and communities who are working to build safe syringe disposal programs and improve public understanding of this important issue. We hope that the information and tools provided here will help communities move closer to the ultimate goal of “no syringes discarded in the trash or in public locations such as parks, buildings, or the streets.”


Current Published Guidance for Individuals

Georgia state government does not provide guidance for the safe disposal of community sharps.


Solid and Infectious Waste Policies

1. Georgia Solid Waste Law and Regulation

Summary
Defines biomedical waste – Used syringes are defined as biomedical waste.

Establishes biomedical waste requirements – Used sharps must be contained in rigid, leakproof, labeled containers in a safe storage area inaccessible to the public. They must also be properly disposed of at a permitted landfill or biomedical waste treatment facility.

Covers certain facilities – Biomedical waste generators, such as hospitals, must follow Georgia’s biomedical waste rule. Facilities that manage less than 100 pounds of biomedical waste per month, such as home health care agencies or community sharps container collection sites, must follow the rule except for certain parts pertaining to treatment and transportation.

Does not regulate community sharps – Used syringes generated from single-family homes are not regulated by the biomedical waste rule.

Does not address community sharps disposal sites – Community sharps disposal programs are not specifically addressed by the biomedical waste law or rule.

Law
Georgia Code [Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Act], Section 12-8-22 (1.1) [Definitions – “Biomedical Waste”], Section 12-8-23(1)(E) [Authorities – Biomedical waste rule writing authority] [Ref 1]

Regulation
Rule 391-3-4 [Solid Waste Management], Section 391-3-4.01 [Definitions], Section 391-3-4-.15 [Biomedical Waste. Amended] [Ref 2]

Responsible Agency
Georgia Department of Natural Resources


Bloodborne Pathogen Standards

Summary
Federal bloodborne pathogen rule applies – Georgia has not established its own state plan for regulating bloodborne pathogens. Therefore, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards apply.

Sets requirements for collection sites when employees handle the sharps containers – Operators of sharps container collection sites in which employees physically accept and handle filled sharps containers from customers are required to meet the OSHA bloodborne pathogen standards. This involves developing a written Exposure Control Plan that identifies the frequency of exposure and the tasks and procedures in which exposure may occur. The Plan also must address methods of compliance, hepatitis B vaccination, hazard communication to employees, recordkeeping, and methods to evaluate exposure incidents.

Sets requirements for collection sites when employees do not handle the sharps containers – Operators of sharps container collection sites in which customers place filled sharps containers into a collection container are not subject to the bloodborne pathogen standard. In this situation, employees must not handle the sharps containers. Those involved with removing the sharps containers from the collection container must meet the standard.

Law
29 CFR Part 1910.1030 [Ref 3]

Responsible Agency
US Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Regional Office (Responsible for administrative activities in Region 4)
Area Office (Responsible for OSHA compliance in Georgia)


Selected Community Syringe Disposal Options

Container Collection Sites

Background

How This Option Works
An individual brings filled sharps containers to a collection site such as a pharmacy, medical facility (for example, a hospital or public health clinic), or non-medical facility (for example, a fire station) for safe disposal. Other sites have sharps collection drop boxes (a kiosk, mailbox-type receptacle, or other secured collection bin). This is a viable option that can capture many of the syringes generated in the community. Successful syringe container collection programs feature:

  • minimal regulatory constraints placed on collection sites;
  • easy access provided through numerous and well-publicized collection locations; and
  • minimal costs to users through subsidized costs of containers and disposal.

Even if a community does not have collection site programs, an individual may be able to develop an informal relationship with a local pharmacy or other facility that will accept and safely dispose of filled syringe containers.

Advantages and Disadvantages
Sharps container collection programs have two key advantages:

  • Used syringes are kept out of the regular solid waste stream, which reduces the risk of needlestick injuries to waste and recycling workers (see Disposal in the Trash for more information).
  • Syringes collected through these programs are disposed of safely as medical waste. This involves special disinfection to destroy germs and destruction or burial to ensure that the needle points cannot injure anyone.

Facilities and individuals may perceive some disadvantages:

  • Individuals may feel that bringing sharps containers to a collection site is inconvenient and reduces their privacy because it identifies them as a syringe user.
  • Collection sites may have to comply with state bloodborne pathogen standards and medical waste disposal requirements, and they must carefully maintain the collection bins or kiosks.

Effect of Georgia’s Laws and Regulations
Sharps container collection sites must follow Georgia’s biomedical waste rule. This may discourage pharmacies, fire stations, or other facilities from becoming syringe container collection sites, even though they may collect less than 100 pounds of sharps per month.

Community collection sites must also meet the federal OSHA bloodborne pathogen standard and this may discourage some community facilities from becoming collection sites.

Container Mailback Programs

Background

How This Option Works
Sharps containers are distributed to customers and, when full, are mailed back to a syringe disposal company for safe disposal. This is a viable option that can capture some of the used syringes generated in the community.

Advantages and Disadvantages
Syringe mailback programs have the same advantages as syringe container collection sites:

  • Used syringes are kept out of the regular solid waste stream, which reduces the risk of needlestick injuries to waste and recycling workers (see Disposal in the Trash for more information).
  • Syringes collected through these programs are disposed of safely as medical waste. This involves special disinfection to destroy germs and destruction or burial to ensure that the needle points cannot injure anyone.

The cost of mailing the container to the disposal company varies. The cost may be too high for some individuals, and may be considered a disadvantage.

Effect of Georgia’s Laws and Regulations
Sharps container mailback programs are not addressed by Georgia’s solid waste rule. However, sharps container collection programs are regulated under the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) when syringes are mailed [Ref 4]. The USPS regulations establish specific packaging, labeling, and tracking requirements for these syringes.

Disposal in the Trash

Background

How This Option Works
Individuals place their used syringes in the household trash, either loose or in a puncture-resistant container. Some individuals remove the needle from the syringe and put it in a container using a special device. The syringe and contained needle are then disposed of in the household trash.

Advantages and Disadvantages
The main advantages of this option are convenience and low cost.

This option has one important disadvantage – it places people at risk of being stuck by a needle and increases their chances of contracting a bloodborne infection:

  • Placing unprotected syringes into the household trash puts waste collectors at risk [Ref 5].
  • Placing used needles in a puncture-resistant container may help protect trash collectors from being stuck. Even so, most containers disposed of in the trash shatter in the garbage truck and release their contents. This places other waste workers at risk.
  • Bottles or cans used as puncture-resistant containers may be recycled by mistake. This puts waste recyclers at risk.

Effect of Georgia’s Laws and Regulations
Individuals living in single-family homes may legally dispose of used syringes in the trash. As a result, they may be less likely to participate in community syringe collection programs.


How Might Georgia Ensure Safe Syringe Disposal by Individuals in the Community?

The state legislature and individual communities may wish to more actively encourage individuals to safely dispose of used syringes and make it easier for them to do so. Many options for state and local action exist. They range from gathering data, to developing community collection site programs and education efforts, to creating partnerships with interested groups, to considering amending laws and regulations. All will help Georgia move toward the goal of “no syringes discarded in the trash or public locations.”


Current Identified Community Syringe Disposal Programs in Georgia Go to Top

Georgia has a public education campaign, launched in 1990, that encourages individuals to save used syringes in a puncture-resistant household container and place them when full in the trash. The program distributes stickers (primarily to pharmacies) so that people can label the container as containing hazardous contents.

Contact
Kathy Berkowitz
Grady Health System, Diabetes Unit
69 Butler St. SE
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 616-3722
(404) 616-3717 (Fax)
E-mail: kberkow@emory.edu


Responsible Agencies in Georgia

Links below will open in a new browser window.

Georgia Department of Natural ResourcesLink to a non-CDC site
Environmental Protection Division
Solid Waste Management Program
EPD – Commercial & Industrial Solid Waste
4244 International Parkway, Suite 104
Atlanta, GA 30354

Contact: Harold Gillespie
Tel: (404) 362-4510
Fax: (404) 362-2693

US Occupational Safety and Health AdministrationLink to a non-CDC site
Regional Office – Region 4
61 Forsyth Street, SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 562-2300
(404) 562-2295 FAX

Atlanta East Area Office
LaVista Perimeter Office Park
2183 N. Lake Parkway, Building 7
Suite 110
Tucker, Georgia 30080-2968
Tel: (770) 493-6644
Fax: (770) 493 7725

Atlanta West Area Office
2400 Herodian Way, Suite 250
Smyrna, Georgia 30080-2968
Tel: (770) 984-8700
Fax: (770) 984-8855

Area Office Savannah
450 Mall Boulevard, Suite J
Savannah, Georgia 31405
Tel: (912) 652-4393
Fax: (912) 652-4329


References

Links below will open in a new browser window.

1. Georgia Code [Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Act], Section 12-8-22 (1.1) [Definitions – “Biomedical Waste”], Section 12-8-23(1)(E) [Authorities – Biomedical waste rule writing authority]Link to a non-CDC site [Click on “Rules and Laws” then click on “OCGA 12-8-20”]

2. Rule 391-3-4 [Solid Waste Management], Section 391-3-4.01 [Definitions], Section 391-3-4-.15 [Biomedical Waste. Amended]Link to a non-CDC site [Click on “Rules and Laws” then click on “391-3-4”]

3. OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen StandardsLink to a non-CDC site – 29 CFR Part 1910.1030.

4. USPS Domestic Mail ManualLink to a non-CDC site [Click on “DMM Subject Index” then scroll to and click on “Sharps, CO23.85”]

5. Turnberg WL, Frost F. Survey of occupational exposure of waste industry workers to infectious waste in Washington State.Link to a non-CDC site American Journal of Public Health 1990;80(10):1262-1264.



Disclaimer

The materials provided on this web site are for general information purposes only. They do not constitute legal or policy advice or opinion. Access to these materials, their transmission, or receipt is not privileged and does not create any relationship with the provider.

CDC has attempted to make the information in this website accurate. However, CDC makes no guarantees about the accuracy, currency, or completeness of the information provided. We are not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for results obtained from the use of the information. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a professional should be sought.

This CDC Web site is no longer being reviewed or updated and thus is no longer kept current. This site remains to assist researchers or others needing historical content.

   
Go to top

Privacy Policy | Accessibility

USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web Portal