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Case Studies

Assisted Living

Assisted Living

we like the idea that our waste is turned into PELLA-DRX™ instead of going to a landfill

The Challenge

Every business has the potential for either generating or discovering sharps (used syringes or needles) or other types of medical waste on their premises. Many businesses may only need a simple solution such as the Sharps Recovery System™ for tattoo needle disposal; sharps disposal for employee and public restrooms; or spill cleanup and disposal for commercial buildings, restaurants, airports and other public places. Still other businesses such as hotels and assisted living may need a number of different solutions. Sharps provides the right solution for each facility's specific needs, whether it is one or many.

Such was the case with one senior living organization. Within the facility, there were a variety of different sources for the generation of medical waste and sharps, and therefore multiple solutions were needed. The organization has numerous facilities in every state ranging from independent living to skilled nursing. A facility assessment revealed the following concerns:

  • Source segregation of the different waste streams was not being practiced. The majority of the waste found in red bags was trash.
  • Residents' expired medications were being popped out of bingo cards, and either flushed or placed red bags. Red bag waste typically is autoclaved, which is inappropriate treatment for drugs.
  • They were experiencing several needlesticks a year resulting from syringes disposed in trash bags or elsewhere in public and employee restrooms.
  • Residents who give themselves their own injections in both the Assisted and Independent Living residences were tossing needles into their trash.
  • Sharps containers carried on the med carts were not secured. Overfilling and misplacement of containers was a problem.
  • In the Central Care Area the use of wall-mounted sharps containers required syringes to be temporarily laid down or handed to staff members by the resident for placement into the container on the wall.
  • Policies were inconsistent and the facility was confused about specific state waste regulations.
  • Many waste tracking documents were missing at both the facility and corporate office.

The Solution

The Sharps family of products including the Sharps Recovery System and the TakeAway Environmental Return System™ allows for a solutions approach to medical waste and used medication management. It's a step-by-step process beginning with identification of the organization's specific waste streams, points of generation, organizational policy and state-specific regulations. Sharps then moves to identifying appropriate collection containers, treatment methods, training and documentation needs. The solutions had to be corporate-wide, compliant in all states, easy to use and manage, and cost effective.

Waste Minimization

The first step after meeting with the corporate office was to meet with the facility management and staff. "One particular challenge was helping the staff understand that it is not necessary to dispose of wastes generated from patients in isolation, such as those with MRSA, VRE, or C. diff, into the red bag unless it's saturated with blood or other body fluids that could carry bloodborne pathogens – not feces, urine, sputum and such."

In order to help employees succeed, Sharps implemented the following changes:
  • All red bags were removed from residences and replaced with black bags.
  • Trash containers in clinical areas where placed where they are easily accessed.
  • Waste Segregation Charts were created specifically for the organization and posted.
Med Carts and Public Restrooms

Sharps mounted the Sharps Secure® cabinets in both public and employee restrooms, as well as on med carts. "Having a collection system on our med carts like the Sharps Secure that is both readily available and only accessible to authorized personnel has been a real safety benefit." The Sharps Secure also allows self-injecting visitors and employees a confidential disposal method, and residents an alternative to the trash when not in their residences.

Central Care Area

It was determined that the 2-Gallon Sharps Recovery System was best for the Central Care Area. It allowed for placement as close as possible to where the care was being provided so sharps could be placed into the container immediately after use.

Unused Medication Disposal

Sharps was also able to address the need for disposal of residents' unused medications. The TakeAway Environmental Return System Drop-Off box maintained in the Central Care Area was ideal. "It allows for direct and easy placement of bingo cards or pill bottles into the box, and we know there will be witnessed incineration by law enforcement."

Self-Injecting Residents

To address the multiple self-injecting residents at the facility, Sharps provided the twelve 1-qt system. It includes twelve 1-qt sharps containers that are provided to those who self-inject within their own residences. They are placed into the one shipping box which is packaged and mailed by the facility when all twelve containers are returned.

Spill Cleanup

In addition to sharps containment and disposal, body fluid spills must be safely and properly contained as well. Sharps provided both the Biohazard Spill Clean-up and Disposal Kit for blood and other biohazardous body fluids and the Biohazard Spill Clean-up Kit for safe cleanup of non-biohazard spills. "We love that we can take the entire pail with everything needed for spill cleanup right to the spill."


With SharpsTracer®, each facility is able to retrieve all documentation with a facility-specific ID and password. In addition, the corporate office has access to documentation for all facilities as well. This eliminated lost tracking documents and allows the corporate office to track waste from any facility at any time.

The Result

By implementing the Sharps Recovery System, the organization reduced its medical waste disposal costs overall by about 50% versus the traditional pickup service. In addition, employees are able to focus on resident care instead of tasks such as removing medications from packaging for disposal. "Through waste minimization and selecting the right system for the right need, we reduced both our hard and soft costs."

"It's surprising how many sharps we have diverted from our residents' and public restroom trash. We had several needlesticks that had to be recorded on our injury and illness record before implementing the Sharps program. With the Sharps systems, we are able to demonstrate to OSHA that we are now taking a proactive approach to reducing the number of needlesticks due to our residents' improper sharps disposal."

Sharps provided assistance with a corporate medical waste management plan that was compliant in all states. Training and pictorial posters also reinforced the program, resulting in initial and ongoing compliance by the facilities. Sharps continues to serve as an intermediary between specific state regulators and the organization when state-specific questions arise.

"In addition to all the benefits of the Sharps program, we like the idea that our waste is turned into PELLA-DRX™ instead of going to a landfill. That's the icing on the cake!"