Standard Operating Procedure (SOP): Disposal of Medical Sharps and “Soft” Medical Waste

Purpose: This SOP is intended to establish processes for proper handling and disposal of medical sharps using a prepaid mail container (“Mailback”), in accordance with Postal Service™ policies. Federal environmental agencies suggest the proper disposal of all sharps by using a mailback approach. This SOP establishes methods for using the USPS® mailback approach for medical sharps at all Postal Service operations and requires all employees to follow approved disposal procedures.

Applicability: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 3 billion needles and other sharps are used in homes in the United States each year. Examples of sharps are needles, lancets, and syringes. Improper disposal of sharps can create a hazard to our employees, especially maintenance personnel. Many USPS facilities generate small amounts of medical sharps and this SOP will aid in proper handling of the waste. Sharps are not to be thrown into the trash, flushed down the toilet, or placed in recycling containers. The State of California has banned sharps disposal in household trash with Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York having established community drop-off programs at hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

“Soft waste” is described by the Occupational Safety Health Act (OSHA) as items contaminated with caked or dried blood, semi-liquid, blood-contaminated items that would release blood, or other potentially infectious material. These types of “soft medical waste” must be placed in a container that includes the biohazard symbol, be fluorescent orange, orange-red, or predominantly so, with lettering and symbols in contrasting color; and affixed to the container by adhesive to prevent loss or removal.

Currently the USPS has contracted with Stericycle (Contract 2ASAES-14-B-0006) under the USPS eBuy2 system to provide several containers for medical sharps and soft waste with a prepaid shipping container. The following procedures must be followed for additional charges to not be incurred.

I. Procedures:

1. Using the eBuy2 system the facility may purchase:

a. Sharps: Needles, lancets, or syringes.

i. 1.4 Quart

1.4 Quart Medical Waste container

ii. 1 Gallon

1Gallon Medical Waste container

iii. 2 Gallon

2 gallon Medical Waste container

b. Soft Medical Waste: Blood soaked bandages or trauma scene debris.

i. 1 Gallon

1 Gallon Soft Medical Waste container

ii. 5 Gallon

5 Gallon Soft Medical Waste container

2. Upon receipt of the white mailback box from Stericycle, remove the sharps or soft medical waste container. Note: Retain the White Mailing Box for Return Shipping!

3. Sharp containers come with a mountable bracket. Mount the bracket in a medical area, ladies, or men’s room. The bracket is only needed once. USPS recommends placing the installation date on the container.

4. USPS recommends mailing the containers back annually, even if they are not full. When mailing the container, complete the four page manifest that came with the original mailing. If the original paperwork cannot be located, one can be obtained at the following website or by calling Paris White at 866-563-7962.

5. Fill out the Waste Tracking document: section one requires the Facility Name (USPS ABC Post Office) and address; section 2 requires the Postmaster name (or designee), signature, telephone number and date. Upon completion of the manifest, retain the bottom (blue) Generator copy for the facility environmental files.

Waste Tracking Form

6. The remaining three pages of the manifest are placed in the ziplock bag provided and attached to the outside of the box. The box is now ready to be mailed. Copies of receipt of destruction will be mailed to the facility within four weeks and may be obtained via the website at

Meical Waste ziplock bag

II. Disposal Record

Keep records of the container sent to Stericycle (see sample record-keeping table below):


Type Waste:

Sharps or Soft

Size of Container



Date Sent

















III. Contact Information

Contact the Office of Sustainability with any questions about medical waste disposal procedures. Additional guidance on this and other environmental issues can be found on the Sustainability website at