Sharps and Lab Glass Waste


Sharps waste is regulated by state law and requires special handling. Sharps are instruments used to puncture or cut body parts. In a waste container, sharps can cause cuts, punctures and potential exposure to waste handlers.

Laboratory glass and plastic waste are not technically sharps but can puncture regular waste bags and injure waste handlers. The rules for packaging and disposal of laboratory glass and plastic waste differ depending on whether or not the items are contaminated.

Visit the Sharps Safety webpage to learn more about working safely with sharps.

Sharps Waste

Biohazardous lab glass and plastic

Nonhazardous lab glass and plastic

What you can do to stay safe

  • Learn to identify sharps waste vs. laboratory glass and plastic waste.
  • Keep sharps waste separate from all other waste streams.
  • Sharps waste and biohazardous lab glass and plastic waste must be decontaminated prior to disposal.
  • Take the required and recommended safety training courses.
  • Learn more about working safely with sharps.

Treatment and disposal of sharps waste and laboratory glass and plastic waste varies based on access to autoclaves and location. Refer to the flow charts on the Biohazardous Waste page for your location for specific treatment and disposal information.

Services available

EH&S biosafety officers can assist with training, consultation and help with any biosafety questions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

EH&S does not collect or treat sharps or other biohazardous waste. EH&S provides consultation and training for on-site or off-site treatment of sharps waste prior to disposal. Refer to the information on the Biohazardous Waste page for decontamination of biohazardous waste. Check with your department to see if a sharps disposal waste stream already exists.

You can purchase Laboratory Glass tape from the Chemistry stockroom in Bagley Hall and from the Life Sciences Building stockroom in B147A. Alternatively, you can clearly label boxes as “Laboratory Glass” yourself.

If your building does not have a personal sharps container, keep them in a sharps container or other rigid container, and then take all of your personal sharps home for disposal. 

Follow the guidance for personal sharps disposal for per your county of residence: King County, Pierce County, or Snohomish County.

On occasion, members of the UW community may come across needles that people have left behind or were improperly disposed.

  1. DO NOT HANDLE the needle. If you are able to do so, leave a warning sign to help bring it to the attention of others who may pass by.
  2. Call EH&S at 206-221-7770. EH&S will provide guidance and coordinate with trained personnel who can safely collect and dispose of needles.

Unopened needles, sharps or other items with needles attached still need to be disposed of in a red hard-sided sharps container with a biohazard symbol. Although unused, the needles still present a hazard to those handling waste. UW Surplus will not accept sharps.

No, UW Surplus does not accept needles or sharps. Refer to the UW Surplus Preparing Items for Surplus webpage for a list of prohibited items.


Biological Safety Contact

(206) 221-7770
Reference Files