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"What is a Sharp?" & Other Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Proper Disposal

The subject of handling and disposing of regulated medical waste — and more specifically, sharps — is complicated and confusing. At Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services, we hear a lot of the same questions, and it’s our job to answer them.

Here are a few frequently asked questions regarding sharps and their disposal.

What is a "sharp"?

In terms of medical waste, a sharp can be a needle, a syringe, an injection device, a lancet, or any other medical implement that is, well, sharp.

Why is it important to dispose of used sharps properly?

Improper disposal of sharps can lead to needle sticks and injury that may ultimately result in the transmission of infectious disease. Sharps are often considered biohazard waste, and must be disposed of appropriately.

What type of disposal containers can I use?

Used sharps should be placed in a designated sharps container; this container, seen in most (if not all) medical offices, is made of hard, red plastic and fitted with a lid. Sharps containers are usually provided by a pharmaceutical representative, but replacements can be obtained at your local pharmacy; from a healthcare provider or the health department; or by contacting Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services.

How can I find out specific information regarding local sharps disposal regulations?

Sharps disposal rules are different around the world, and throughout the United States. Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services recommends that you contact us directly to discuss the regulations in your state and local area. Or, you might check the website,, for the rules that apply specifically to your situation.

Can I throw the filled sharps containers in the trash?

Again, depending on your state and local area, this is a question for specific discussion with a medical waste expert. The state of Maryland currently allows patients to place used sharps in a household container (e.g., a laundry detergent bottle, or another opaque sturdy plastic container with a screw-top lid) for disposal in the garbage.

Loose needles and syringes should never be placed directly in the trash, nor should they be flushed down the toilet; likewise, sharps and their containers should never be recycled.

Still have questions regarding the proper disposal of sharps?

Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services provides healthcare providers with a safe and environmentally sustainable approach to sharps. Please call 855-228-1715 for more information.