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Safe Community Needle Disposal

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

Content Verified on: March 7, 2003


Summary

Regulatory Environment

  • Community sharps disposal programs are not regulated under solid and infectious waste rules.
  • Syringes used at home are not regulated and may be disposed in the trash.
  • Infectious waste disposal standards apply only to hospitals.
  • Businesses that provide or support health care and medical diagnostic services may not dispose of regulated waste in landfills unless it has been decontaminated.

Identified Community-based Disposal Initiatives

  • No community-based disposal initiatives were identified in Idaho, though that does not mean that no such programs operate in Idaho.

Learn about how criminal laws affect syringe disposal by individuals in this state, especially injection drug users.


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

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality publishes guidance entitled Eliminating Household Hazardous Waste.PDF IconLink to a non-CDC site The guidance contains the following information:

Medical Waste/Sharps

Potential hazards:
The medical waste items most often generated by households in Idaho are disposable hypodermic syringes and needles (called sharps) used for home medications in the treatment of diabetes and allergies. Other types of medical wastes produced by households are cultures and stocks, biological waste and pathological waste. Improper disposal of sharps can injure garbage haulers and landfill workers or, if contaminated with infectious disease organisms, transmit communicable diseases.

Disposal:
Sharps and other medical wastes are characterized as infectious waste and should be disposed of separately from household garbage. Contact your garbage hauler, local government solid waste department or public health department to obtain proper disposal containers and service information for packaging and collection in your area.

Hard copies may also be obtained by contacting the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s Pollution Prevention Program at (208) 373-0502.


Solid and Infectious Waste Policies

1. Infectious Waste Law and Rule

Summary
Adopts the federal bloodborne pathogen standard’s definition of regulated waste – Blood, infectious materials, and sharps contaminated with infectious material, are included as regulated waste in Idaho’s solid waste rule, as they are in the federal bloodborne pathogen standard.

Does not address community sharps collection or disposal – Idaho solid waste rules do not address either community sharps container collection sites or safe disposal of used syringes by individuals in the community.

Prohibits disposal of infectious waste in a landfill – Idaho’s solid waste rule prohibits any business that provides health care, support to health care businesses, or medical diagnostic services from disposing of regulated waste has not been decontaminated.

Defines and establishes infectious waste standards for hospitals – Idaho’s standards for hospitals define infectious waste and establish specific requirements for its treatment and disposal.

Rule
Idaho Administrative Code 58.01.06 (Sold Waste Management Rules) [Ref 1]
Idaho Administrative Code 16.03.14 (Rules and Minimum Standards for Hospitals in Idaho) [Ref 2]

Responsible Agencies
Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare


Bloodborne Pathogen Standards

Summary
Federal bloodborne pathogen rule applies – Idaho 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 10)
Area Office (Responsible for OSHA compliance in Idaho)


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 Idaho’s Laws and Regulations
Community sharps container collection sites are not addressed by Idaho’s solid waste rule. This lack of recognition may reduce communities’ awareness of the need to begin such programs. This environment may also make it easier to begin container collection programs. Federal bloodborne pathogen standards would apply.

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 Idaho’s Laws and Regulations
Sharps container mailback programs are not addressed by Idaho’s infectious 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 Idaho’s Laws and Regulations
Syringes used at home are not regulated, and therefore, individuals may dispose of them in the trash. This may discourage individuals from seeking safe disposal options, such as returning filled sharps containers to a pharmacy or other sharps container collection site.


How Might Idaho 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 Idaho move toward the goal of “no syringes discarded in the trash or public locations.”


Current Identified Community Syringe Disposal Programs in Idaho Go to Top

No community syringe collection programs were identified in Idaho. However, this does not mean that no programs operate in the state.


Responsible Agencies in Idaho

Links below will open in a new browser window.

Infectious Waste Issues

Idaho Department of Environmental QualityLink to a non-CDC site
Department of Waste Management and RemediationLink to a non-CDC site
1410 North Hilton
Boise, ID 83706
Tel: (208) 373-0502
Fax: (208) 373-0417

Department of Health and WelfareLink to a non-CDC site
450 West State Street
Boise, Idaho 83720-0036
Tel: (208) 334-5500

Bloodborne Pathogen Issues

US Occupational Safety and Health AdministrationLink to a non-CDC site

OSHA Regional OfficeLink to a non-CDC site (Region 10)
1111 Third Avenue, Suite 715
Seattle, Washington 98101-3212
Tel: (206) 553-5930
Fax: (206) 553-6499

OSHA Boise Area Office
1150 North Curtis Road, Suite 201
Boise, Idaho 83706
Tel: (208) 321-2960
Fax: (208) 321-2966


References

Links below will open in a new browser window.

1. Idaho Solid Waste Rules – Idaho Administrative Code 58.01.06 [Sold Waste Management Rules]

2. Idaho Hospital Standards – Idaho Administrative Code 16.03.14 [Rules and Minimum Standards for Hospitals in Idaho]

3. OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen StandardsLink to a non-CDC site – 29 CFR Part 1910.1030. [Scroll to and click on “1910.1030 – Bloodborne pathogens”]

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.

   
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