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

New MexicoNew Mexico's Public Health Laws and Regulations: Impact on the Safe Disposal of Used Syringes by Individuals in the Community

Content Verified on: March 9, 2003


Summary

Regulatory Environment

  • The New Mexico Environment Department has the authority to enforce the laws and regulations relating to infectious waste and provides management standards for its treatment and disposal.
  • Syringes are contained within New Mexico’s definition of infectious waste and are therefore subject to these regulations.

Identified Community-based Disposal Initiatives

  • The State of New Mexico Department of Health has purchased drop-off boxes and placed them in different locations throughout the state for safe needle disposal.

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

New Mexico’s Environment Department, Solid Waste Bureau, has developed a document called Solid Waste Bureau Guidance on Disposal of Medical Sharps Generated in Private Homes. This document recommends using the sharps disposal guidelines created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its brochure entitled Disposal Tips for Home Health Care.PDF IconLink to a non-CDC site

Disposal Tips for Home Health Care
This document provides tips on how to dispose of syringes used during home health care.

The guidance includes these recommendations:

  • Place needles and syringes in a hard plastic or metal container with a screw-on cap or tightly secured lid.
  • Reinforce the lid of the container with heavy-duty tape.
  • Label the container “Not for Recycling.”

The guidance includes these warnings:

  • Do not place the container with materials to be recycled.
  • Do not use containers made of glass or clear plastic.
  • Keep these containers out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Place the container in a cardboard box, secure the cardboard box with tape, and dispose of the box in the household trash.

To get a copy of Solid Waste Bureau Guidance on Disposal of Medical Sharps Generated in Private Homes, contact:

New Mexico Environment Department
Solid Waste Bureau
P.O. Box 26110
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502-6110
Tel: (505) 827-2924


Solid and Infectious Waste Policies

1. Solid Waste Statutes

Summary
Establishes authority – The New Mexico Solid Waste Act authorizes the New Mexico Environment Department to promulgate and enforce regulations addressing the management and disposal of solid waste. The Act specifically requires the that those who handle potentially infectious waste to develop a plan that identifies wastes as well as methods for special waste handling, transport, collection, and disposal.

Law
Articles 8, 9, and 10 of the New Mexico Statutes Annotated, Chapter 74 [Ref 1]

2. Solid Waste Management Rules

Summary
Establishes a definition – “Sharps” (hypodermic needles and syringes) are classified as a form of infectious waste. In New Mexico, infectious waste is considered a “special waste.”

Establishes segregation requirements – The rules require infectious waste to be segregated from other wastes at the point of origin.

Establishes packaging requirements for sharps – Sharps must be contained in specially designed rigid, leak-proof, puncture resistant sharps containers that are securely lidded or taped closed before storage, transport, treatment, or disposal.

Establishes labeling requirements – Infectious waste containers must be labeled to indicate that they contain infectious waste or placed in bags that meet federal requirements.

Establishes storage requirements – Infectious waste must also be securely stored in an approved special waste storage area.

Requires the creation of a management plan – All persons who generate, store, transport, treat, or dispose of infectious waste are required to create a management plan that “identifies the type of waste the person generates or handles, the segregation, packaging, labeling, collection, storage, and transportation procedures to be implemented, the treatment or disposal methods that will be used, the transporter and disposal facility that will be used, and the person responsible for the management of the infectious waste.”

Establishes treatment requirements – Methods of infectious waste treatment include incineration, steam sterilization or any other method approved by the New Mexico Environment Department.

Establishes disposal requirements – The rules restrict the disposal of special wastes to solid waste facilities that are authorized to accept special wastes for disposal.

Law
Chapter 9, Part 1 of the New Mexico Administrative Code (NMAC), Title 20 [Ref 2]

Responsible Agency
New Mexico Environment Department


Bloodborne Pathogen Standards

Summary
Adopts federal bloodborne pathogen rule – New Mexico’s bloodborne pathogen rule was adopted by reference from the federal standard. The state operates its own program under an U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-approved state plan.

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
New Mexico Environment Department
Occupational Health and Safety Bureau


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 New Mexico’s Laws and Regulations on Container Collection Sites
New Mexico’s solid waste regulations do not specifically address sharps container collection sites. According to representatives at the New Mexico Solid Waste Bureau, a collection site would be required to obtain a permit from the New Mexico Environment Department and may be classified as a "transfer station." Transfer stations must comply with regulations set forth in the New Mexico Administrative Code.

Collection site operators may also be subject to meeting bloodborne pathogen standards, depending on how the sharps containers are collected and handled.

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 New Mexico’s Laws and Regulations on Container Mailback Programs
Sharps container mailback programs are not addressed by New Mexico’s solid waste rules. 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 New Mexico’s Laws and Regulations on Disposal in the Trash
New Mexico’s solid waste regulations do not specifically address infectious waste generated from a household. According to representatives from the Solid Waste Bureau, syringes used in a household are exempt from the regulations and may be disposed of in the trash, unless they result from the administration of home health care through a home health agency.


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

The state legislature and individual communities may wish to 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 New Mexico move toward the goal of “no syringes discarded in the trash or public locations.”


Current Identified Community Syringe Disposal Programs in New Mexico Go to Top

The State of New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) has been the lead in establishing a safe needle disposal option for the State. The DOH has purchased drop-off boxes to dispose of needles and is currently in the process of trying to provide at least one unit to every county in New Mexico. Most of the drop-off boxes will be located at the local county health office, and where this is not possible, they will seek partners within the community. The waste management company Stericycle has partnered with the DOH Harm Reduction Program and handles the waste generated by these units at not cost to the State. For information about the location of these needle collection sites, please contact the New Mexico HIV/AIDS/Hepatitis Hot Line at 1-800-545-2437 or 505-476-3634.


Responsible Agencies in New Mexico

Links below will open in a new browser window.

New Mexico Environment Department
Solid Waste Bureau
P.O. Box 26110
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502-6110
Contact: Solid Waste Enforcement Section Manager
Tel: (505) 827-2924
Fax: (505) 827-2902

New Mexico Environment Department
Occupational Health and Safety Bureau
525 Camino de Los Marquez, Suite 3
P.O. Box 26110
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502
Contacts:
Butch Tongate, Chief
Tel: (505) 827- 4230 ext.114
Fax: (505) 827-4422
Email: butch_tongate@nmenv.state.nm.us

Enforcement: robert_genoway@nmenv.state.nm.us

Consultation: ray_singer@nmenv.state.nm.us


References

Links below will open in a new browser window.

1. New Mexico Statutes Annotated, Chapter 74 [Environmental Improvement], Article 8 [Solid Waste Incineration], Article 9 [Solid Waste Act], Article 10 [Solid Waste Authority]

2. New Mexico Administrative Code (NMAC), Title 20 [Environmental Protection], Chapter 9 [Solid Waste], Part 1 [Solid Waste Management]

3. OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standards – 29 CFR Part 1910.1030.

4. USPS Domestic Mail Manual [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. 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