Unregulated disposal of household needles poses a serious threat to the safety of municipal solid waste workers. For example, a 44-year old trash collector stuck in the leg with a needle while on the job began having stomach pains a year later. His doctor told him that he had contracted Hepatitis C, probably from the needle stick the year prior. The doctors have been unable to help him and he is now in chronic liver failure, likely to die from the disease.  As this case indicates, the threat of needle (also referred to as sharps) injuries to the municipal solid waste (MSW) occupation is a serious threat. Needle stick injuries are not only a threat to MSW collectors, but also to workers employed at material recovery facilities (MRFs) and transfer stations. Because MSW workers have direct contact with waste during all phases of MSW handling, from collection to recycling and ultimately to disposal in landfills, they have an alarmingly increased risk of accidental needle stick injuries.

Needle sticks subject MSW workers to potentially life-threatening diseases from contaminated needles. Needle sticks may also result in the transfer of external costs to the public or private waste management companies, the employees’ families and their communities. This article argues that it is imperative to regulate household sharps disposal. It further contends that the regulatory approach need not be complicated or expensive; the benefits of regulating household sharps will outweigh the costs.