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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Vaccination Waste Disposal Best Practices

Covid-19 Vaccination Waste Disposal Best Practices

Last updated 3/2/2021

Managing the influx of sharps waste resulting from the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines requires a waste management plan. Plans for different scenarios require consideration of unique needs. Vaccinations can occur at hospitals – both on-site and off-site (tents, pop-ups, annex building and other temporary locations) – as well as retail pharmacies, clinics and long-term care facilities. While considerations are similar for these situations, they are key for developing your plan for disposing of vaccination waste.

It’s necessary to evaluate where the administration will happen, where to source  sharps containers, where they should be located, how many vaccinations and patients are expected, and whether there are enough sharps containers to accommodate the waste generated. For on-site vaccination administration within your facility, Stericycle recommends increasing inventory of reusable sharps containers to accommodate increased volume of waste and not displace containers from other patient care areas.  For off-site administration, purchase additional disposable sharps containers to manage waste at the location. 

Manufacturers also recommend that fully discharged vaccine vials are discarded in sharps containers, which should be taken into account when planning container quantity. Vial trays should also be discarded as medical waste; refer to your vaccine manufacturer’s instructions for packaging waste.

Click here to learn more about our safe, convenient and compliant solutions tailored to manage the surge in sharps and RMW waste from COVID-19 vaccinations.


Waste Type Safe & Compliant Disposal Guidance Stericycle Solution


Used syringes must be captured in sharps containers and disposed of as regulated medical waste (RMW).

Sharps Disposal Solutions

Vaccine Packaging

This material can be disposed of as regulated medical waste.

Please refer to your vaccine manufacturer's instructions for packaging waste such as trays and boxes.

Regulated Medical Waste

Empty Vials

The Department of Defense has recommended that all vial waste be captured in sharps containers to mitigate potential diversion and illicit intent.

As such, once placed in a sharps container, the container should be managed as regulated medical waste.

Sharps Disposal Solutions

Non-Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste

Full or Partial Vials (also called Residual Doses)

Once placed in a sharps container, these items should be managed as regulated medical waste or as non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste.

Regulated Medical Waste

Non-Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste

Other Medical Waste

Gloves, gauze, cotton balls, bandages, and the like should not be placed in disposable sharps containers. Those items can go into the regular trash, or if considered potentially infectious material, disposed in RMW containers.

Regulated Medical Waste

Dry Ice

Please refer to CDC guidance for disposal of dry ice.