Demand for sharps containers is rising, contributing to a sharps container shortage. MERI is currently taking measures to meet the needs of the healthcare facilities and vaccine clinics we service. To ensure that access to sharps containers is available for all, below is information on what you can do during a sharps container shortage.
Supply vs. Demand
Earlier in 2021, a significant supplier of polypropylene resin warned of a potential sharps container shortage due to a December 2020 fire at their manufacturing facility. There are still lingering effects from that event. Making up for lost production has been further complicated with the labor force shortage. It could be mid-2022 before we see production back up to standard.
As the push for vaccines has dominated since early 2021 and continues with the booster availability and influenza vaccinations, the demand for sharps containers has continued to rise. Additionally, the OSHA mandate for companies with 100+ employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly for Covid-19 is looming. Because of this, companies are looking for a safe way to collect and dispose of testing material. This need creates demand for our mailback kits, further depleting our inventory of FDA-approved sharps containers.
CDC Recommendations During Sharps Container Shortage
Fortunately, the CDC addressed the sharps container shortage early in 2021. At that time, they put out guidelines and strategies on how to conserve the biohazard containers that facilities already had and provide alternatives to disposable sharps containers.
CDC Strategies for Sharps Disposal Container Use During Supply Shortages is a helpful reference on conserving existing biohazard containers and provides examples of alternative containers that are often everyday household items, such as laundry detergent bottles.
Sharps Container Shortage Conservation Guidelines
- If you have a scheduled pickup/removal of your sharps containers, consider changing that to occur ONLY when your containers have reached their recommended capacity.
- If you find the size or type of container you typically use is not available, contact MERI, and we can work through potential alternatives that are in stock.
- Particular household containers meet the OSHA requirements for collecting sharps, such as laundry detergent bottles, paint buckets, or cat litter containers. Ensure the containers are made of heavy-duty plastic, are puncture-resistant, and have lids that you can tightly secure.
- Label or mark these household containers as BIOHAZARD when using them to collect sharps and needles.
- Reusable sharps containers are a great alternative to the disposable sharps container shortage for some facilities. Supply of these types of containers is more readily available. Additionally, they are an environmentally-friendly option since they eliminate additional plastic waste going to our landfills.