To properly dispose of sharps at home isn’t as simple as one might think. You can’t just toss them into the trash or recycling bin. And no, not even if they’re inside a flimsy plastic bottle.
The danger in disposing of sharps as any other item of trash poses a potential harm to not only your local waste handlers, but also to children, pets, and others that might come in contact. In fact, some states actually ban the disposal of syringes and needles in this way.
If you are an at home patient or use sharps on a regular basis, here are some do’s, don’ts, tips, and tricks to properly dispose of sharps:
DON’T throw away sharps directly in the trash
Never dispose of needles, syringes, or other sharps straight into the household trash. This can cause a world of harmful possibilities.
Instead, dispose of sharps in an FDA approved sharps container. For information on what passes FDA guidelines, visit this article on FDA-Cleared Sharps Containers.
DON’T dispose of sharps containers in the recycling bin
Similarly to the point made above, don’t throw away sharps containers in the recycling bin. This cause several issues, as your recyclables must be sorted through and any sharps containers could potentially put waste handlers at risk, as well as making the entire collection of recycled materials unusable.
DO follow the guidelines of your state or local government
As mentioned before, some states (and local governments) make it illegal to dispose of sharps in the common household trash, even if in proper FDA-cleared sharps containers.
Instead, consult your local guidelines or follow some of these tips to get rid of sharps containers:
- Drop boxes or supervised collection sites. Drop off your sharps disposal containers at collections sites, including doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, health departments, medical waste facilities, and police or fire stations.
- Mail-back programs. You may be able to mail a FDA-cleared disposal container to a collection site. Consult the manufacture’s instructions included with the sharps containers, as they might offer the mail-back option or have specific requirements.
DON’T dispose of sharps in a water bottle if a FDA container is not readily available
Sometimes you run out of containers. It’s understandable. But under no circumstances should you dispose of needles in weak packaging, such as water bottles or empty cereal boxes.
Follow these guidelines for DIY sharps containers:
- choose a sturdy, non-see-through container, such as an empty bleach or laundry detergent bottle, or empty coffee can
- CLEARLY label the container “DO NOT RECYCLE:” with “syringes,” “needles,” or “sharps” added
- make sure the lid is able to be completely tightened
- store in an upright position at all times
- when container is full and ready to be disposed of, seal and reinforce the lid with Duct tape or other heavy-duty tapes
DO make sure your sharps container meets FDA standards
All sharps containers should be:
- made of a heavy-duty plastic
- able to close with a tight-fitting, puncture-proof lid, without sharps being able to come out
- upright and stable during use
- properly labeled