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Sharps - Photo credit: DNR
Sharps in municipal solid waste cause a big hazard to workers.Photo credit: DNR

Contact(s): Jennifer Semrau, DNR Waste Diversion Coordinator, 608-267-7550,
December 10, 2019

MADISON, Wis. - December is Sharps Awareness Month, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wants to remind residents that medical sharps, such as needles, syringes and lancets, cannot be disposed of in the trash or recycling bins. The DNR has a new interactive sharps collection site map to help connect people with sites near them.

"By disposing of sharps at designated collection sites, you are preventing needlestick injuries to workers at solid waste and recycling facilities," says DNR Waste Reduction and Diversion Coordinator Jennifer Semrau. "Even when sharps are in containers, the equipment at recycling facilities can break them open, exposing workers doing hand sorting to sticks from used needles."

Semrau added that workers who experience a needlestick incident typically undergo months of testing for infectious diseases such as hepatitis B and human immunodeficiency virus.

In a 2019 survey, almost 40 percent of Wisconsin's recycling facilities reported sharps as a top contaminant in the recycling stream. "When sharps are discovered in the recycling facility, the sorting line is shut down until everything is cleaned up, costing money and time," Semrau said.

To help residents, the DNR recently transformed its list of sharps collection sites into an interactive map, which can be found here. Some sharp collection sites, like pharmacies and public health departments, are required to register with the DNR. Currently, there are over 300 sites statewide, and the DNR is working to make the list more comprehensive. Calling ahead to verify hours and whether there is a fee is recommended.

Storing sharps correctly at home is also essential to proper disposal. Using a designated sharps container, which some collection sites sell, is highly recommended. However, a rigid, puncture-resistant plastic container with a secure lid, such as a detergent bottle, can work. Labeling containers with "biohazard," "infectious waste" or "sharps" ensures the closed container is handled correctly. For detergent bottles or similar plastic containers, adding "do not recycle" avoids confusion.

Visit the DNR website here for more information.

Last Revised: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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