Materials that qualify as “sharps” are defined at the state level and shall be disposed of as Potentially Infectious Medical Waste (PIMW). In Illinois, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has designated the following material (used or unused) as sharps:

  • Any medical needles,
  • Syringe barrels (with or without needle),
  • Pasteur pipettes (glass),
  • Scalpel and razor blades,
  • Blood vials,
  • Microscope slides and coverslips,
  • Glassware contaminated with infectious agents.

All sharps shall be disposed of in approved Sharps Disposal Containers (SDCs), which are provided free of charge to university personnel. SDCs are closable, puncture resistant, leak-proof on the sides and bottoms, and available in three sizes (1-quart, 2-gallon, or 8-gallon sharps disposal container). Because the IEPA requires sharps to be rendered unrecognizable prior to disposal, disposal of sharps in the regular trash is forbidden.

Chemical Contamination

Syringes, needles, and glass Pasteur pipettes used in chemical manipulations with no infectious agents should be free of visible liquids. Dispense liquids into a chemical waste accumulation container before placing sharps in an SDC. However, if sharps are exposed to acutely toxic waste or heavy metals, collect the sharps in a puncture-resistant container with a screw top lid, such as a wide-mouth Nalgene container, instead of an SDC. Use similar containers for glass slides contaminated with heavy metals.

Sharps with radioactive contamination should be collected based on the biological or chemical agents involved. Use shielding if there is an external radiation hazard. The containers should be properly marked to indicate the radiation hazard and the radiological information (isotopes and activity) should be provided in the pickup request.

Broken Glassware

Broken glassware is not necessarily considered to be a sharp. Broken glass that is not biologically, chemically, or radiologically contaminated may be disposed of in the regular trash. For more information see Laboratory Glassware Disposal

For printable image click here

Precautions When Filling SDCs

When new SDCs arrive, secure the lid by snapping all corners in place. SDCs must be easily accessible to laboratory personnel and located as close as possible to the area where sharps are used. When discarding sharps:

  • Never bend, shear, break, or recap disposable needles or remove from disposable syringes;
  • Place the item into the SDC immediately following use;
  • Never reach into the SDC;
  • Never empty the contents of the SDC into another container;
  • Never remove the lid from the container;
  • Never overfill a sharps disposal container; no materials should be sticking out the top;
  • Never force materials into a sharps disposal container.

Improper Use of SDCs

NEVER dispose of these items in SDCs:

  • Plastic items (except for syringes),
  • Beverage containers (no pop cans!),
  • Non-biologically contaminated laboratory glassware,
  • Solvent/chemical bottles,
  • Light bulbs,
  • Any paper materials,
  • Pipette tips,
  • Plastic pipettes,
  • Silicon wafers,
  • Aerosol cans or cans of any type,
  • Scintillation vials,
  • Any item with liquid (except for blood in vacutainer tubes).

Oversized Sharps

Oversized items for disposal, such as a 20-liter flask contaminated with an infectious agent, may be carefully boxed in an ordinary cardboard box for collection. The box must be sturdy and no larger than 18" x 12" x 9". Bottom seams on the box should be taped and the bottom lined with absorbent laboratory bench paper. Items should be emptied of all liquids before being packaged. The box lid should be closed and seams secured with tape. The box should be labeled on two sides with the words “OVERSIZED SHARPS”. Materials not packaged in this manner will not be collected.

Requesting New SDCs

Campus Stores manages the distribution of new SDCs. Requests for new SDCs are made by phone at 217-244-0139 or by email and should include quantity and size of SDCs and delivery location. Containers are usually delivered within three business days. If new containers are broken, cracked, or are missing parts, contact Campus Stores. 

Requesting Full SDC Pickups

When full, lock the lid in place, and request a sharps pick-up from the Division of Research Safety. Containers are usually picked-up within three business days.

Disposal of Personal Use Needles and Syringes

Individuals who have medical reasons for using sharps while on campus should refer to our personal use pages for students and employees.

Last Updated: 11/3/2022