Hypodermic Needles & Other Sharps - Frequently Asked Questions

image of Medical Waste

What are "sharps"?

Sharps include lancets, hypodermic needles, syringes, blood vials, and scalpel blades. On the average, Americans use over one billion sharps in their homes each year.

Who uses sharps?

Besides establishments like doctor and dentist offices, people use sharps in the home to administer health care (e.g., insulin injections for diabetics).

What are some problems associated with improper disposal of sharps?

If sharps are not disposed of properly, they pose a very serious threat as a puncture hazard, and also as a vector to transmit diseases, such as hepatitis, HIV, and tetanus. Improperly disposed sharps are also a significant ecological threat, as images of medical waste washing up on the shores of beaches all to eloquently illustrate.

How much does this service cost?

There is no charge for this service, and it is extended to all El Dorado County residents (the STR also accepts sharps containers from Nevada residents of the South Lake Tahoe area). There's also no paperwork to fill out.

How can I get a sharps container?

Sharps containers can be purchased at most pharmacies where hypodermic needles and other sharps are purchased. 

What are the requirements of sharps containers?

Homemade sharps containers are not acceptable. Compliant OSHA containers with labels can be obtained at pharmacies. Containers that are used to collect contaminated sharps must meet the requirements set forth in OSHA Regulations (Standards - 29 CFR) 1910.1030. 

OSHA compliant sharps containers are: 

a. Rigid and puncture resistant,
b. Leak proof,
c. Capable of being readily and securely sealed without coming into contact with sharps materials, and
d. Clearly marked with approved labeling 

Biohazard logo

How does one dispose of their sharps properly?

When purchasing needles or syringes from your pharmacy, also purchase mail back needle storage containers or approved medical waste containers. Compliant containers are bright red and have the large "biohazard" symbol displayed.

Please Note: To take advantage of El Dorado County sponsored free sharps disposal, all sharps MUST be in approved containers Homemade sharps containers will NOT be accepted at El Dorado County HHW events, the MRF or by STR.

When the container is three-fourths full, close and seal it. Bring the container to one of the following locations:

  • El Dorado Hills Fire Station 86
    3670 Bass Lake Road, El Dorado Hills
    Call (530) 621-5300 to make an appointment
    Sharps may be dropped off during scheduled HHW collection events, by appointment only. Appointments can also be made by emailing hhw@edcgov.us.
  • Material Recovery Facility (MRF)
    4100 Throwita Way, Diamond Springs
    (530) 626-4141
    Sharps may be dropped off on Friday and Saturday between 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.  
  • South Tahoe Refuse (STR)
    2140 Ruth Avenue #4100, South Lake Tahoe
    (530) 541-0366
    Sharps may be dropped off on Tuesdays and Saturdays between the hours of 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  1. Sharps containers will NOT be accepted from businesses such as dental or doctor offices, clinics, etc.
  2. Remember to always keep sharps and sharps containers out of the reach of children!
  3. Keep in mind that damaged, open or unsealed containers will NOT be accepted!
  4. You can also dispose of your waste paints, oils, solvents, cleansers, pesticides, etc., at the STR Free of Charge!

Thank you for your participation in this program, and in making our County a safer one. For more information regarding sharps and their proper handling and disposal, please contact Environmental Management at 530-621-5300.