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How to Dispose of Used Sharps

Tattoo shops, like the medical field, deal with contaminated Sharps needles on a daily basis. These Sharps must be disposed of properly to ensure public health and safety from needle sticks by objects that could potentially be infected with Hepatitis, HIV, AIDS and other infectious diseases. There are several routes you can pursue in order to dispose of used Sharps.

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  1. Buy a Sharps container. These containers are generally red, sometimes yellow, with a biohazard symbol on the front and can be purchased at many local drugstores or department store pharmacies or online at medical supply or tattoo supply companies. For more information about obtaining these containers, read the eHow article, "How to Buy a Sharps Container."

  2. Install or place the containers where needed. Each tattoo station should be equipped with a Sharps container in a readily available, highly visible area. You should take extreme caution in making sure they aren't overfilled and replace them immediately when at capacity.

  3. Use a mail-in disposal service. Many medical supply and medical waste disposal companies not only have containers you can purchase, but also offer a program in which you can mail filled containers to them for proper disposal. Generally, this is one of the more inexpensive routes to take for smaller tattoo shops since they don't usually require any type of service contract, you eliminate transportation fees and only use the service when needed.

  4. Contract with a medical waste pick-up company. This service will be more expensive than a mail-in service, but with the added convenience of them coming to your shop and picking up your Sharps containers for you. This eliminates the time it takes you to package and mail the containers yourself and the possibility that the containers are packaged incorrectly. Most of these companies do require service contracts and many are fairly long-term.

  5. Hire a complete disposal management company. These companies properly dispose of your Sharps containers and usually offer various options depending on the size of your operation. Their services may include mail-in options with prepaid shipping boxes that meet postal regulations and pick-up service where they pick up filled Sharps containers onsite. Some also have an exchange/pick-up service in which their technicians come in on a regular basis and change out your Sharps containers before they are full and put in new ones for you. However, this full-service treatment may be a bit pricey for most tattoo shops.

  6. Get proof of destruction. Any company that disposes of your Sharps should provide you with a destruction manifest for your records, which may be required by the State Health Department or other regulating office in your state. If the company doesn't provide a destruction manifest, be sure to get some form of official documentation stating they've picked up your containers to be properly disposed of according to federal and state laws. Some companies have a recycle program in which they sterilize and reuse Sharps containers, but they should still provide receipts stating the Sharps themselves were destroyed.

  7. Warning

    Never try to manually empty and sterilize a Sharps container. It's not only against the law, but it also greatly increases your chance of getting a needle stick. Never mail Sharps containers through the postal service without identifying that biohazard material is contained in the package. Again, it's not only against the law, but it also puts postal workers at risk. Never package Sharps or Sharps containers in a box that isn't approved for shipping biohazard materials. This is also against the law and puts postal workers at even greater risk than not properly identifying what's contained in the package.

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Things You'll Need

  • Sharps container
  • Mail-in disposal service
  • Pick-up disposal service
  • Destruction manifest

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