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Class Project in the MDes program at Massachusetts College of Art and Design


SpruceBox is a needle storage and disposal box subscription service. Made for at-home sharps users, this solution provides a way to receive your needles, store them, and dispose of them in one convenient package.

There are many reasons someone may need to use sharps. Some examples include administering diabetes medication or hormonal therapy. Typical disposal methods involve placing the sharps in a hard plastic container and throwing them in the trash. However, not every user is diligent about disposing of their sharps correctly.


Our team of three design students conducted secondary and primary research. We analyzed our findings using affinity mapping. We then facilitated co-creation sessions to explore hypotheses we formed from our research insights. We developed a digital mockup of our final product.


6 months (one class)

January 2021 - May 2021



Product Designer


3 design researchers


Design Research

Digital Product Mockups

The Problem

Our team wanted to prevent at-home sharps users from disposing their needles incorrectly.

Roughly 30% percent of sharps are disposed of incorrectly. This can lead to needle stick injuries for sanitation workers, putting them at risk for HIV, Hepatitis, and other bloodborne pathogens.

Image by Sam Moqadam

Image from Unsplash

Image by Michiel Annaert

According to the federal Department of Labor, in 2021 sanitation workers experienced 820 harmful substance exposures due to needle stick injuries. They did not include the number for needle stick injuries that didn't result in harmful substance exposure.

Image from Unsplash

Secondary Research

We wanted to learn the different ways sharps could be collected to assess if there were already effective solutions.

Healthcare centers have designated boxes for used sharps.

Companies such as Stericycle will collect these boxes and sanitize the sharps for reuse.


At-Home Sharps Users have a few more options.

Depending on state regulations, at-home sharps users may place their sharps in a hard plastic container and throw them in the trash. They may also take them to a designated sharps drop-off facility such at a fire station. Ultimately, the sharps will end up in a landfill.

I created a map using stock icons to map out the different options for the lifecycle of a sharp.

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Hospitals have convenient methods to dispose of sharps. At-home sharps users must be diligent enough to develop their own disposal method and system.


As noted in the sharps lifecycle diagram, education on sharps disposal (sometimes) starts with the healthcare professional. We interviewed healthcare professionals, pharmacists, and at-home sharps users to develop a deeper understanding of sharps disposal practices.



What role do field experts play in discussing sharps disposal?


How do at-home sharps users dispose of their sharps and why did they choose that method?

7 Interviews

1 patient on hormonal therapy

2 patients using sharps for other non-diabetes medications

1 diabetes patient

3 healthcare professionals




Training protocols for sharps disposal are usually done when the user first requires the medication. Protocols differ across clinics and medications.

Medications that require sharps tend to become a regular part of someone's routine.

All users we interviewed used containers that they already had at home to store their used sharps, typically a laundry detergent container that later gets thrown in the trash.


Methods of disposal that aren't throwing a container in the trash, such as dropping the sharps off at a facility are inconvenient.

Users wished there were more practical and sustainable solutions of disposing their sharps. They didn't like the idea that they were contributing to landfill waste.


1. Sharp stick injuries due to improper disposal are partially due to inconsistent disposal training across healthcare clinics.

Our primary research insight linked to a study done by the American Diabetes Association in where they found that "prior formal training in sharps disposal was associated with higher rates of correct practices".

2. Users are willing to dispose of sharps in a way they consider safe.

...As long as the process is accessible and convenient. Since sharps usage was part of their routine, users indicated they wouldn't want to deviate from this routine.

3. The process of receiving medication/sharps via the mail is convenient, but the process of disposing via mail is not.

Most of the users we spoke with had heard about mail-back programs for used sharps, but at an expense the user didn't believe was worth it. The disposal box that these mail-back programs provided was also large, and some users mentioned that mailing it back "'isn't worth it" because it would take them a year to fill this box.


Our next goal was to do co-creation sessions with our users after narrowing the scope of the problem from our insights. We used a HMW statement to guide us:


...encourage at-home sharps users to dispose of their sharps in a manner that fits their lifestyle in order to encourage proper disposal?



Have the user think of 2 errands they run on a regular basis. Have them do a mind map of each errand. Highlight words in the mind map that resonant with them.


Understand recurring thoughts and emotions around their routine.

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Users tried to group errands that were near each other to save time. The more out of the way an errand is, the less likely the user is to do it.


The solution we came up with was a sharps disposable box subscription service. The user orders a box that contains two components: one component is storage for new sharps, and the other is the used sharps compartment. When they fill up their used sharps compartment, they can send it in in exchange for a new disposal box.

The user has a few options: they can opt into a subscription service or can just do a one time purchase. They can also purchase sharps along with the box so they arrive in one shipment.

Below is a storyboard my teammate made to show the user process of ordering and returning the box.

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Below are box concepts that my other teammate sketched to show our users.

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Concept 1

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Concept 2

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Concept 3

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Concept 4


Users mentioned the subscription idea and disposal method would fit into their lifestyle and make disposal more convenient. As an added bonus, this will help prevent sharps from building up in landfills. We could partner with sharps sterilizers so that sharps can be reused, similar to how they're reused in hospitals.

Final Product

Our final product was SpruceBox: A needle storage and disposal box subscription service. You can receive your needles, have a place to store them, and a place to dispose of them in one convenient package.

The box is modular. The top part of the box is for used needle dispoal.


The bottom part of the box is for needle storage.

Rendering done by my teammate

All renderings below were done by me.


The box is modular, and storage and disposal boxes can be stored separately.


Multiple containers can snap together.


Needle storage and disposal storage all in one place.

Containers can be stored anywhere. Some users need to store their medication in the fridge.


Fridge graphic from Freepik.

I also designed a brochure mockup. These are instructions for the user and part of the welcome package for their first SpruceBox.

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There were a few user groups that would have been beneficial to interview.

I contacted Stericycle to discuss a consumer sharps recycling program, but didn't receive a response. It also would have been nice to speak with users who didn't dispose of their sharps correctly. I was able to reach out to one person who admitted this, but we were not able to schedule an interview.


Next Steps

This was not required for the assignment, but I'd be curious to see how feasible this idea is. Existing mail-back programs aren't cost-efficient. Our business model is a little different, as it creates a network of partnerships between sharps manufactuers.

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