Sharps Disposal

Medical Sharps are instruments that are intended to cut or penetrate skin (e.g. needle, syringes with needles, lancets and razor blades). They require special handling and may not go directly to the landfill.  Sharps Poster

  • Medical sharps should be placed in an approved sharps container that is closable, puncture-resistant, leak-proof and appropriately labeled.
  • When 3/4 full, these containers are to be taken by staff to a collection container (do not overfill).
  • MERI (Madison Environmental Resourcing Inc.) will pick up these collection containers for treatment.
  • Material that is picked up by MERI need not be disinfected, unless it comes from a BL3 facility.
  • If you wish to autoclave the sharps box, make sure it is designed to be autoclaved.

Non-medical sharps are lab materials that can cut, but are not intended to do so, and should be disposed of in a manner that prevents harm

  • A plastic bag does not provide adequate protection.
  • Examples include fragile glass, glass slides and cover slips, pipettes and pipette tips.
  • Non-medical sharps contaminated with infectious materials or human blood/tissues should be placed in a rigid plastic container; and either
    1. disinfect in the lab, affix the "OK to Trash" label, and label as "Broken glass and plasticware"; or
    2. if not disinfected, place in a MERI collection container
  • Non-medical sharps not contaminated with infectious or potentially infectious substances should be placed in a cardboard box (lined with plastic if appropriate).
    • The boxes should be sturdy, no larger than 1’x1’ base and 20lbs max weight. 
    • Label the box as "Broken glass and plasticware".
    • Tape the sides and corners.
    • When full, tape shut and affix the "OK to Trash" label.
    • It may be left for custodians to remove from the lab area.

For more detailed information, see "Disposal of Wastes from Biological Laboratories" in the UW Madison Researchers' Biosafety Manual.