The Problem: Disposal, Cost
Every year, more than 8 million individuals across the U.S. use more than 3 billion needles, syringes, and lancets- also called sharps -to manage medical conditions at home. According to the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), medical sharps (including syringes, pen needles, and lancets) enable consumers to self-inject medications at home or away from traditional healthcare settings. The majority of sharps outside of the healthcare setting enter the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream every year in the U.S. from two main sources : individuals managing their own health care at home by self-injecting medication, representing two-thirds of needles used, and intravenous drug users. Individuals living with diabetes generate the majority of medical sharps.
As self-injection of medications becomes more common, the number of medical sharps is expected to increase significantly in the coming years. Unfortunately medical sharps are routinely discarded in household trash, recycling bins or flushed down the toilet by self-injectors at home. These disposal methods cause potential for injury or the potential transmission of infectious disease to homeowners, sanitation workers, sewage treatement plant operators and waste management personnel at transfer stations, landfills and recycling facilities. Sharps also cause costly maintenance issues when the sharps become jammed in equipment.