With the COVID-19 vaccine around the corner, there will suddenly be a large influx of a specific type of medical waste: contaminated sharps. These will mostly come around in the shape of syringes, but there are a lot of other items that will fall under this category too.
The disposal of this sort of medical waste has gained a lot of traction because of the impact of contaminated sharps washing up on beaches or piling up in landfills. These are pathogens for bloodborne diseases and can infect people with HIV or Hepatitis if touched or pricked.
The definition for sharps is any object that can be used to pierce or cut human skin. The problem isn’t with the fact that these items can cut skin; it’s the danger of contamination due to their use in medical and surgical processes.
Some major types of sharps are as follows:
Needles and syringes: the hollow needle at the end of a syringe plunger is used for injecting medication and directly comes in contact with the infected area on human skin.
Scalpels and scissors: These are instruments used to make incisions and cut skin for surgical procedures.
Injection Pens: Epi-pens and insulin pens are auto-injectors that people use to prick through the skin to deliver medication.
Glass and sharp plastics: broken or unbroken glass and sharp plastics can be contaminated quite easily through presence in operation rooms.
There are some protocols to handlings sharps, especially potentially contaminated ones, once they’ve been used. For handling, the used sharps must never be moved around by hand. They must not be broken or bent before decontamination, and they must be placed in a specially categorized bin.
The bins themselves have protocols that must be followed. These include not opening the bins in between use, proper disposal height, levels to which they can be filled, and a maximum time before mandatory disposal.
Disposing Sharps Correctly
The sharps have to be decontaminated before they can be recycled or destroyed with the other non-medical trash. While some hospitals have their own decontamination system, this will often be expensive to run. The best way is to either call a sharps waste disposal service to the site or package and mail it in.