Healthcare Questions

Answers to frequently-asked questions

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Every year, hundreds of millions of people are injured from improperly discarded sharps. Waste handlers are at the highest risk, but small children and pets can be injured as well. Proper storage and disposal of sharps and lancets, will protect members of your household and the general public from accidental injury.

How can I safely dispose of used hypodermic needles or sharps?

Hypodermic needles, syringes and lancets are all called “sharps.” Because sharps can transmit bloodborne pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis B and C, they are potentially biohazardous waste and are an important public health hazard. When a needle is tossed into a household wastebasket, it quite often ends up sticking members of the community, such as sanitation workers, or it may be used for unintended purposes. Even a benign needle stick can trigger costly interventions, including counseling, testing and preventive treatment.

For used needles and other sharps, Waste Management offers a specially designed MedWaste TrackerSM System to safely contain, transport and render sharps harmless to the community. Keep your MedWaste Tracker in a safe place so it doesn’t endanger others.

In disposing of your sharps, keep the following points in mind:

  • Do not put used needles in your household waste bin or any other refuse bin.
  • Never put a used sharp in a container that’s not specifically designed for sharps. For instance, do not use drink cans, bottles or plastic food boxes.
  • Once you’ve put a used needle into your sharps bin, don’t try to remove it.

Where can I dispose of my sharps bin?

Collection services vary depending on where you live. Very few municipalities, doctors or pharmacies provide collection services. Be sure to contact them first before bringing any used sharps to their facilities. A MedWaste TrackerSM System is a convenient way to return used sharps safely and securely through the U.S. Postal Service.

May I use a detergent bottle or other hard-plastic container to store and dispose of sharps?

No, please don’t. Such containers routinely burst open when compressed in garbage trucks. When the truck contents are dumped onto a conveyor line, workers pick out recyclables and are vulnerable to needle sticks.

Should I sterilize sharps before disposing of them?

Sterilization is not necessary when you use a sharps container and dispose of sharps properly. A community member who is stuck with a used sharp will not know if it has been sterilized and will not be able to avoid testing and treatment.

What is considered “medical waste”?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical waste is “waste sufficiently capable of causing infection during handling and disposal.” This may include blood-soaked bandages, discarded surgical gloves, discarded sharps, and so on, all of which merit special handling and disposal.

Can I put soiled bandages, medical gloves and disposable bed linens in the trash?

Contaminated wound dressings, disposable sheets and pads, gloves, and dialysis machine filters may be double-bagged in a standard plastic garbage bag and securely fastened. This material may then be combined with other household garbage for disposal.

Healthcare providers and facilities are required to adhere to federal and state regulations, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. Please consult your state for additional handling requirements for bloodborne pathogens.

How can I dispose of prescription drugs?

Never flush prescription drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so. For drugs not labeled to be flushed, you may be able to take advantage of community pharmaceutical return programs or other programs, such as household hazardous waste collection events that collect drugs at a central location for proper disposal. Visit Healthcare Solutions Events/News to see if there are collection events near your community. Call your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service and ask if a safe drug disposal program is available in your community.

If a drug return or disposal program is not available in your community:

  • Take your prescription drugs out of their original containers.
  • Mix drugs with an undesirable substance such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.
  • Put this mixture into a disposal container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub or into a sealable bag.
  • Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with a black permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off.
  • Place the sealed container with the mixture, and the empty drug containers, into the trash.

Waste Management is preparing to launch environmentally-protective and safe solutions for the return and destruction of pharmaceuticals. Be sure to check back for more information about our programs coming soon!

PharmEcology Waste Watch Wizard FAQ

Which products does the database include?

The database includes over 170,000 current pharmaceutical products provided by Medi-Span's Master Drug Data Base (MDDB®), copyrighted by Facts and Comparisons, a Wolters Kluwer company. We update the database weekly, so we always stay ahead of your inventory purchases.  

What will I learn by using the database?

The PharmE® Waste Wizard identifies which products become federal hazardous waste when discarded (based on the EPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) and recommends the appropriate waste category. The Waste Wizard also identifies hazardous products, such as chemotherapy agents, which are not regulated as hazardous waste federally but should be treated as hazardous waste based on their potential to cause harm. We refer to these as “PharmE Hazardous®” waste. The Wizard results will also specify which container to use if full partial or empty, or if the item being discarded is a syringe. We also provide links to all available Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for EPA hazardous wastes and OSHA hazardous drugs. DOT shipping descriptions are also included for all items. If your state’s hazardous waste regulations are more stringent than the federal regulations, the Waste Wizard will alert you and provide a link to your state’s regulations.

Who can benefit from a subscription to the PharmE Waste Wizard?

The PharmE Waste Wizard is designed for anyone responsible for managing the cost-effective, compliant disposition of waste pharmaceuticals. Organizations such as hospitals, long-term care facilities and provider pharmacies, outpatient surgery clinics, retail pharmacies, drug distributors, wholesalers, and manufacturers will find the PharmE Waste Wizard a critical, cost-effective tool for managing pharmaceutical waste. Governmental agencies will also find the PharmE Waste Wizard beneficial.

How do I access the Patented PharmE Waste Wizard? 

The PharmE Waste Wizard is a Web-based subscription. For further information, contact us via phone, 414-292-3959, or e-mail,

How many people have access under one subscription?

Your licensing agreement provides for unlimited use and an unlimited number of users.

What if my state regulations are stricter than the federal regulations?

Depending on how your organization chooses to access the Wizard, the PharmE Waste Wizard recognizes who you are and your state location. If your state regulations are stricter than the federal regulations, this tool will notify you and provide a link to your state’s hazardous waste regulations. You can also choose another state if you are involved with a multi-state organization and need to determine if another state's regulations are stricter than the federal regulations.

What if the product I am searching for is missing?

First, be sure you have entered the correct NDC number or have searched for either the trade name or generic name. The PharmE Waste Wizard is based on the current MediSpan database and includes over 170,000 items. If you still cannot find the product, e-mail the NDC number, product description, and manufacturer to us at  and we will research the item for you at no charge.

Are laboratory products included in the PharmE Waste Wizard?

Any bulk chemical included in the MediSpan database will be included in the PharmE Waste Wizard. Medical laboratory products are not specifically included at this time. If this is an area of interest to you, please contact us at so that we may consider this area for future development.

How does the detail search logic work?

For each specific product, PharmEcology has developed multiple criteria based on the EPA regulations, such as toxicity, ignitability, corrosivity and reactivity. Depending on which criteria are met for that item, a hazardous waste designation and recommended waste category are given in the search. For those items, such as some chemotherapy agents, which are recognized as hazardous drugs by the healthcare industry and OSHA, but not by EPA, a PharmE Hazardous waste category is indicated, suggesting a recommended hazardous waste stream. The PharmE Waste Wizard also indicates if a state’s hazardous waste regulations are stricter than the federal regulations.

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