Bottled Medical Waste

Top left: “36 weeks worth of clipped Pegasys syringes in a 1.4 L soda bottle” (via: just another one fighting hepatitis c); on right: 2 liter soda bottle full of diabetic syringes (via: Mackey Family Fun); 2nd row, left: recommended “Home Syringe Disposal” method (via: Jefferson County Public Health); on right: a soda bottle of syringes found at a cemetery in Queens, NYC (via: Satan’s Laundromat); bottom row, left bottle of syringes found “at work” (via: Odinslaw’s Flickr Photostream); on right: “It’s my shtick”—Maida Sperling’s 2001 photograph of bottled syringes arranged to form a clock

Let’s see. Where were we? My last post was on Thursday. Usually the flow of package-related content is more steady. Sorry about the gap. Think of it as an air bubble in your infusion tubing. You were all hooked up, but just not getting any medicine.

Today we’ll continue with the syringe thing. Hân Pham’s special lid for soda cans, brings up another point about soda pop and syringes. Those who must inject themselves with various prescribed medicines are sometimes advised to use soda bottles to dispose of their “sharps.”

Place all sharps and potentially infectious waste in a puncture‐resistant container with a sealing lid like a one‐liter soda bottle, one gallon juice container, or plastic laundry detergent container. Clearly label the container as medical waste (example “SHARPS: DO NOT OPEN!”), seal tightly, and tape closed for added safety.

Medical Waste Disposal instructions (via: Alaska Division of Environmental Health)

Once a soda bottle is full of syringes, however, it’s important to realize that the bottle is no longer to be considered recyclable. But even when a syringe-filled bottle is correctly assigned to a landfill-bound garbage truck, there are still potential health hazards…

The bottles full of syringes rarely withstand the pressure of processing. They pop open in the garbage truck, leaving the “pickers,” who have to sift through piles of trash hunting for recyclables, at high risk of getting stuck with a needle that may be contaminated with HIV, hepatitis viruses or other bloodborne pathogens.

via: American Medical News

Also interesting to note that sometimes soda bottles full of needles wind up completely outside of regulated waste streams as with the bottle above that was found in a NYC cemetery. (See also: this 2006 story of a bottle of syringes found in a cemetery in Australia.)

(See also: Diabetic Packaging)


  1. says

    There are better methods for recycling plastic syringes for home use. People can get a safety container like those used in hospitals and when they take the syringes to be recycled, they can exchange the box for a new one. Using a pop bottle, while allowed by some regulating bodies, never seemed like a good approach to me.

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