Medical Sharps Disposal

Disposal of Medical Sharps (Needles, Lancets, etc.)Loose needles in trash

Each year, 8 million people across the country use more than 3 billion needles, syringes, and lancets—also called sharps—to manage medical conditions at home.

Sharps disposal by self-injectors is not typically regulated, and self-injectors do not always know the safest disposal methods.

This situation could lead to haphazard disposal habits and increased community exposure to sharps. People at the greatest risk of being stuck by used sharps include sanitation and sewage treatment workers, janitors and housekeepers, and children. Due to the hazards that unsafe disposal practices present, many states and municipalities are choosing to offer safe, convenient disposal options to sharps users (Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website).

Please, never place loose needles/syringes or other sharps in the trash!

Be Smart with Sharps

Visit BeSmartwithSharps for information and to take the pledge not to improperly dispose of medical sharps!

If you have used syringes with needles attached, they must go in a sharps container.

Ask your health care provider or local pharmacist about disposal containers for syringe users or if they know of safe disposal programs in the area.

Pharmaceutical suppliers may provide a free container since they supply the product.

Do's and Don'ts of Disposal

Safe Disposal Programs for Self-Injectors

Instead of placing sharps in the trash, self-injectors are encouraged to use any of these alternative disposal methods:

Drop-off collection sites:

Sharps users can take their filled sharps container to appropriate collection sites, which may include doctors’ offices, hospitals, health clinics, pharmacies, health departments, community organizations, police and fire stations, and medical waste facilities. These programs often give self-injectors the option of continuing to use empty household containers to collect sharps but prevent the sharps from entering the household waste stream.

Check with your pharmacist or other health care provider for availability in your area.

Residential special waste pickup services:

Self-injectors can place their used sharps in a special container, similar to a recycling container, and put it outside their home for collection by trained special waste handlers. Some programs require customers to call for pickup, while others offer regular pickup schedules.

Mail-back programs:

Used sharps are placed in special containers, which are mailed (in accordance with U.S. Postal Service requirements) to a collection site for proper disposal. Sharps users place their used sharps in special containers and return the container by mail to a collection site for proper disposal. This service usually requires a fee. Fees vary, depending on the size of the container. Check with your health care provider, pharmacist, yellow pages, or search the Internet using the keywords "sharps mail back."

Syringe exchange programs:

Sharps users can exchange their used needles for new needles. Exchange programs are usually operated by community organizations, which properly dispose of the used needles collected at exchange sites. Sharps users can safely exchange used needles for new needles. Call the North American Syringe Exchange Network at 253-272-4857.

Home needle destruction devices:

A variety of products are available that clip, melt, or burn the needle and allow the sharps user to throw the syringe or plunger in the garbage. These devices can reduce or eliminate the danger of sharps entering the waste stream. Several manufacturers offer products that allow you to destroy used needles at home. These devices sever, burn, or melt the needle, rendering it safe for disposal. Check with your pharmacist or search the internet using the keywords "sharps disposal devices." The prices of these devices vary according to product type and manufacturer.

For more information

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides state-by-state laws and regulations affecting the labeling, transportation, and disposal of used needles and other sharps in the community.