Is It Sharps or Is It Glass?

There is a difference between "sharps" waste and "laboratory glass" waste and it is important to understand the difference and handle these wastes accordingly.

Laboratory Glass

Laboratory glass and plasticware are not considered "sharps" for disposal purposes. "Laboratory glass" (including plasticware) is any item that could puncture regular waste bags and therefore endanger waste handlers. "Laboratory glass" must be placed in sturdy cardboard boxes for safety during transport through the building. Any cardboard box may be used, provided it is sturdy and of a size that will not weigh more than 40 pounds when full.

Laboratory glass boxes are available through EHS and Facilities. To request a new box or the removal of a box, please complete a Facilities work order request.

Boxes must be properly sealed with packing tape (do not just fold the top over on itself) and labeled with the words “laboratory glass.” Place the sealed box alongside your regular waste container for collection by Facilities.

Never use these boxes for the disposal of:

  • sharps
  • biohazardous materials that have not been autoclaved
  • liquid wastes
  • chemically contaminated laboratory glassware/plasticware
  • chemical containers that cannot be disposed of as regular solid waste

Contaminated laboratory glass must be appropriately decontaminated prior to disposal.


Sharps are a restricted waste according to state and local regulators and must not be disposed of in the regular waste stream. The term "sharps" is a regulatory waste classification associated with those instruments used to puncture, cut, or scrape body parts and that, as waste, can cause punctures or cuts to solid waste handlers or the public. This is interpreted to mean that any instrument that looks like it is meant to be used in this manner must be disposed of as sharps waste. The sharps definition includes, but is not limited to, the following items:

  • Hypodermic needles
  • Syringes
  • IV tubing with needles attached
  • Lancets
  • Scalpel blades
  • Glass Pasteur pipettes
  • Microtome blades
  • Dental scalers
  • Razor blades
  • Other sharp, metal lab waste

Such items must be disposed of in an authorized sharps container which is leak-proof, rigid, puncture-resistant, and made from durable plastic. The container is red and is equipped with a tight-fitting lid for use during handling and transport.

If you have questions about sharps disposal, infectious wastes, or need pick-up of a sharps container, please contact Environmental Health and Safety.