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Reusable Sharps Container Program Updated

Updated January 25, 2016

Initial Project

In August of 2008, Procurement Services in collaboration with the Office of Environmental Health & Radiation Safety, in collaboration with theSchool of Medicine's Office of Space Planning and Operations announced a pilot program regarding reusable sharps containers. The vendor chosen for this initial pilot was Curtis Bay Energy. The University pursued the program with expectations of increased laboratory safety, facilitated compliance with environmental regulations, and benefits to the environment.
Based on the size of the building and the laboratory make-up, the Clinical Research Building (CRB) was chosen for the pilot. The initial pilot program did not include the ULAR facility in the basement of CRB. Curtis Bay began distribution of reusable sharps containers toward the end of August, 2008. Curtis Bay supplied each laboratory with the appropriate number of reusable sharps containers to replace their existing disposable containers. Curtis Bay then went directly to the CRB laboratories once a week to collect filled sharps containers and replace them with clean empty containers.
This program has proven to benefit the University in the following ways:


  1. By facilitating compliance with infectious waste regulations and enhancing safety
    During EHRS audits of labs, one of the most common problems noted was the improper disposal of infectious waste. Currently, laboratory personnel do not properly dispose of infectious sharps because; there is an inadequate number of containers ordered, the size of the containers is often too small for the kind and amount of waste generated, and there is inadequate space available in the lab for storage of extra containers. Establishing a reusable container program has helped to improve safety by reducing exposure risks and eliminating inventory problems and multiple handling of containers.

  2. By saving lab space and research dollars
    Principal Investigators did not have to purchase and store the large disposable sharps containers. The containers were provided by Curtis Bay as part of the program. With our labs being very crowded and removing some of the containers helped to increase space in the lab and improve lab appearance and general housekeeping. As an example, Penn's School Of Medicine purchased over 3000 sharps containers last year. The price per container ranges from $1.29- $10.00. Almost half of the containers purchased are the 7- 8 gallon units priced around $9/container.

  3. By promoting sustainability and being environmentally friendly
    Curtis Bay will only dispose of the container's contents (the sharps). The container itself is cleaned and sterilized by the vendor prior to being returned to our labs. According to Curtis Bay Energy's data, one reusable container can replace up to 150 disposable containers each year. This helps to reduce petroleum resources used in plastics manufacturing along with a reduction of emissions from their incineration. This effort helps the University to increase both recycling and waste minimization. In addition, Curtis Bay Energy’s Waste-To-Energy program utilizes steam power from this process to generate both electrical power and steam power as part of an affiliated laundry facility.

The recycling program replaced most of the sharps containers in use, with the exception of the small bench top sharps containers (1 qt., 1 gal. and 2 gal. sizes) Curtis Bay provided various size sharps containers from 7 gallon size up to and including 17 gallon sizes for the labs.  Principal Investigators were no longer required to purchase most types of sharps containers, autoclaving was not  required (saving time and energy), and there was a decrease in the total amount of infectious waste disposed of by Penn. Only the large disposable containers (7 gallons and up) were replaced with reusable containers. Small (1 qt 1 gal. and 2 gal.) disposable bench top containers were still required to be purchased by investigators with disposal through the infectious waste stream.

Project Update #1
With the success of the pilot program in the Perelman School of Medicine's Clinical Research Building (CRB), in March of 2010 a collaborative effort began between Procurement Services, The Office of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety, and the University Laboratory Animal Resources (ULAR) to review for potential participation in the Reusable Sharps Program. Key members within ULAR's 13 locations participated in presentations, discussions and area walkthroughs. Procurement Services provided detailed cost analyses between current systems and proposed Reusable Sharps program.

The program was also expanded to include the University's Student Health Services Department.

Project Update #2
With the success of the pilot program in the School of Medicine, Student Health Services and University Laboratory Animal Resources (ULAR) effective July 1, 2013, the program will be fully available to all laboratories within the School of Medicine's Clinical Research Building (CRB) as well as the Smilow Translational Research Center (STRC).

A phased expansion of the program to all laboratories within the Perelman School of Medicine will continue through the fall of 2013, followed by expansion to the entire Penn community by the spring of 2014. 

The current number of reusable sharps containers being utilized by the various buildings within the School of Medicine:

Biomedical Research Building-257

Clinical Research Building-136

Smilow Research Building-293

Stellar Chance-17


John Morgan-11

Project Update #3
The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) is scheduled for implementation of the program July 1, 2015. Initial installation of 93 reusable sharps containers covered 45 laboratories in 4 buildings (Skirkanich Hall, Towne Building, Moore Building and Hayden Hall).

The following remaining Schools and Centers listed below have been designated for review and potential inclusion into the final phase of the program:

School of Veterinary Medicine/Matthew J. Ryan Hospital/New Bolton Center (VET)

School of Arts and Sciences (SAS)

School of Dental Medicine (SDM)

Key members of each of these Schools/Centers will participate in presentations, discussions and area walkthroughs. Procurement Services will provide detailed cost analyses between current systems and proposed Reusable Sharps program.

If you should have any questions or would like to participate in this program, please contact Dr. Andrew B. Maksymowych, Institutional Biosafety Officer at 215-898-6236, or Dave Staskin, Procurement Services Strategic Sourcing Manager at 215-898-2482.

Project Update #4

The current number of reusable sharps containers being used across various buildings on campus is as follows:



John Morgan-17

Johnson Pavilion-9

School of Vet-12


SEAS - Hayden-12

SEAS - Moore-3

SEAS - Skirkanich-70

SEAS - Towne-68

Singh Nanotechnology Ctr-10

Steller Chance-29

Stemmler Hall-30

Total Containers - 1,132