tattoo medical waste

Did you know that regulated medical waste is not solely found in the healthcare setting? Tattoo studios, MedSpas, and other practices that perform body modification procedures produce medical waste. Improper disposal of sharps, such as a tattoo needle, cross-contamination of blood-soaked items, or the improper reuse of a dirty sharp, can lead to exposure of bloodborne pathogens.

Some of the bloodborne diseases are:

  • Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

These diseases can have lifelong implications that are not only detrimental to a person’s health but can also carry substantial medical costs.

Sharps and Regulated Medical Waste Disposal

Many tattoo needles are one-time use only and should be disposed of in an FDA-approved, puncture-resistant, sharps container after use. Scalpels, needles, razor blades, disposable razors, and other sharps used in body modification or to create an indelible mark on a client must also be deposited into the sharps container.

Sharps containers should be at a level that is easy for the body artist to discard sharps immediately after they have finished using it. This reduces the possibility of accidental injuries to the client or artist. All of our containers can also be wall-mounted, allowing your workspace to be uncluttered.

These containers should be replaced when they become 2/3 full to ensure that they do not spill over or create a dangerous situation for an accidental needlestick. Sharps incorrectly placed in a trash can are not only dangerous, creating an opportunity for an employee, client, or sanitation worker to be stuck, but also illegal.

Any gauze, dressings, plastic covers for the tattoo gun, or gloves that become visibly soiled should be placed in a red biohazard bag. The cap and any leftover ink within should also be discarded as it has already been contaminated by another person’s blood or bodily fluids.

Sharps Compliance offers an array of sharps containers in multiple sizes to fit the needs of your studio, such as a single 1-gallon sharps container, the TakeAway Recovery System with six 5-quart sharps containers, or the 5-gallon Medical Professional Sharps Recovery System Pail. We are here to assist you in choosing the perfect system for your studio.

Governing Bodies

Each state has its own general guidelines that tattoo studios must follow to remain compliant.

Let’s use Texas as an example. Under Texas regulations, tattoo and body piercing studios must follow specific regulatory guidelines, including:

  • Practice universal precautions.
  • Use instruments that are either disposable or that are routinely sterilized.
  • Follow proper handling and disposal of waste.
  • All sharps should be treated as potentially infectious and be properly disposed of in an approved sharps container.
  • Any materials that are visibly soiled in blood should be safely disposed of in a biohazard red bag.

OSHA requires every studio to have an exposure plan in place. This plan is written by the owner and is specific to their studio. It must contain:

  • Steps required to reduce an employee’s exposure to blood
  • Steps to take if there is an exposure
  • Recordkeeping instructions and other details

Sharps Compliance can assist you in with your exposure plans.

ComplianceTrac is an online OSHA compliance management system that has resources available 24/7, including a customizable, fill-in-the-blank Exposure Control Plan. SharpsTracer is also available to our customers online to seamlessly track and verify the treatment of your waste while going paperless. This information is stored in compliance with state and federal regulations.

Let Us Help You

Proper disposal of sharps and other potentially infectious waste creates a clean environment and reduces the risk of infection to yourself and your clients. This infographic highlights the risks that improper disposal poses to human health and the environment. With 25 years’ experience in medical waste compliance, Sharps Compliance has affordable solutions for all your studio’s regulated medical waste needs.

Contact us to learn more.


Lindsey earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Excelsior College and is board certified in Medical-Surgical Nursing from the ANCC. She has over 15 years of direct patient care experience working within the US Army, trauma, long-term care, medical-surgical, and telemetry. As a Clinical Specialist, she works to ensure customers are aware of and compliant with the most current federal, state, and tribal regulations specific to medical and pharmaceutical waste.

published in Medical Waste