Wisconsin medical sharps collection program
Wisconsin's sharps collection program is simple, flexible and voluntary and includes a variety of collection programs, from individual stations to large networks of stations. To protect waste handlers, the public and the environment, state law requires that discarded syringes, lancets and other sharps be kept separate from household garbage. Public education and low-cost, convenient sharps collection programs are the most effective ways to encourage proper disposal.
How to collect sharps from the public
A sharps collection station is a place that accepts containers of sharps from sources who generate less than 50 pounds of infectious waste monthly. The station must provide the service on a nonprofit and cost-only basis. No one is required to collect sharps, however, generators are required to adhere to (state laws, etc.) for proper disposal.
Hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices, nursing homes, pharmacies, community health agencies, local governments, fire stations and diabetic support groups are all examples of potential sharps collectors. Although operators of sharps collection stations may choose to serve only their patients, customers or residents, the state encourages collection programs to make their service widely available.
Sharps collection stations are regulated under s. NR 526.09(5), Wis. Adm. Code. The following resources have more specific details on how to set up a sharps collections station.
- Sharps Collection: Requirements for Collectors (WA 807)
- U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance on handling contaminated sharps
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health guidance on selecting, evaluating and using sharps containers
How to register a sharps collection station
Businesses, institutions or agencies that collect containers of sharps but do not generate infectious waste themselves, or that take in more than they generate, must register with the DNR as sharps collection stations. Registration is required to exempt the station from obtaining a storage facility license. Examples of businesses that must register include pharmacies, certain small clinics and visiting nurse services.
The DNR has an online form for registering sharps collection stations.
If unable to register online, a station operator can send a letter to the DNR. See Sharps Collection: Requirements for Collectors (WA 807) for more details.
Publications that collectors may distribute to the public
The following publications are designed to help educate Wisconsin residents about proper sharps management.
- Protect Yourself, Protect Your Community: Safe Options for Household Sharps Disposal 1/3-page flier
- Protect Yourself, Protect Your Community: Safe Options for Household Sharps Disposal Poster
- Protect Yourself, Protect Your Community: Safe Options for Household Sharps Disposal Brochure
- Wisconsin Laws on Animal Medical Waste (WA-840)
Frequently asked questions about medical sharps
- Is a sharps container in a public restroom a sharps collection station?
Sharps boxes in restrooms are not sharps collection stations. If you provide sharps boxes for guests and employees to use, you are considered a sharps generator instead. Follow the instructions for disposal in Basic Infectious Waste Requirements for Generators of Small Amounts (WA 815).
- Who can use the collection stations?
Both individuals and businesses which generate less than 50 pounds of sharps each month can use collection stations. Potential users include diabetics and others who administer their own medications, home healthcare patients pet owners, farmers, small clinics (medical, dental and veterinary), schools, industrial first aid stations and group homes.
- How much does it cost to collect sharps?
The main cost is for disposal, which varies depending on the volume collected and distance from the infectious waste treatment facility, but typically it is 30 to 60 cents per pound. Stations can offset costs by seeking funds from local governments, community organizations or private agencies.
- What must a collection station do with the sharps?
People who collect sharps must ensure the sharps are safely handled, stored and transported to an infectious waste treatment facility.
- Be sure the sharps are in properly sealed and labeled containers. Refuse to take improperly contained sharps.
- Never open sharps containers. Handle them safely.
- Keep the sharps separate from other wastes, e.g., in a box or specified area within a room.
- Store no more than 500 pounds of sharps at one time.
- Remove waste at least every 90 days.
- If you transport sharps waste, do so in an enclosed portion of a vehicle, e.g., in the trunk. If the vehicle is transporting less than 50 pounds of infectious waste per month every month, you don't need an infectious waste transportation license.
- Transport the sharps only to another station, to a medical facility which will manage it properly or to a licensed infectious waste treatment facility.
- You may also choose to arrange for a licensed infectious waste hauler to transport the waste for you.