How to Safely Dispose of Sharps

Guidelines to Prevent Injury and Disease

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A common question people with diabetes often encounter is "what do I do with my used needles?" Sharps, such as lancets, needle attachments for insulin pens, and syringes are medical waste items that can pose a potential health and safety hazard if they are not discarded properly. The New York State Department of Health says, "Safe disposal of sharps is critically important to optimize health, safety and protection of the environment.

The best way to ensure that people are protected from potential injury or disease transmission of blood borne diseases due to needle sticks is to follow established guidelines for the proper containment of 'sharps' syringes, needles and lancets and other safer disposal practices."

In efforts to protect yourself, pets and others, follow these do's and don'ts for proper sharp disposal...

How Can You Keep Yourself and Others Safe?

You should never throw a lancet or needle in the regular garbage. Disposing needles in the regular trash can result in needle sticks, which puts yourself and others at risk of injury and disease. If you have a pet that likes to rummage through the trash, ingesting needles can cause a major problem. All used needles should be placed in a puncture and leak proof container, such as a "sharps container" or an empty laundry detergent bottle. To prevent needle injury, do not clip, bend or recap syringes or lancets.

Never let your sharps container reach full capacity - this will also reduce the risk of injury. Once it has been filled about three-quarters of the way, follow your community guidelines for discarding. For example, in New York, sharps will be picked up by sanitation. They must be sealed tight, in a puncture proof container and clearly labeled, home sharps-not for recycling.

If your community does not pick up used sharps, you do have other options. 

Take-Back or Drop-Off

Each state has designated facilities that will collect sharps. These facilities act as collection centers for household sharps. For example, in New York, hospitals and nursing homes collect sharps with no identification required. They may have specific drop-off times and packing instructions so its important to call prior to taking sharps to their facility. Certain pharmacies (CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens) may also offer drop off or take back programs. Some fire departments may also collect sharps. When in doubt, call your local facilities prior to get information. You can search your local sanitation and health department websites for guidelines.  

Mailing Options: 

Certain companies offer mail back options. You can collect your used sharps and send them back via mail in a puncture proof container. Here is an example: http://www.bd.com/us/diabetes/page.aspx?cat=7002&id=7415

Additional Resources:

As mentioned earlier, guidelines for sharp disposal vary from state to state. For more information on your state guidelines go to: 

http://www.bd.com/us/diabetes/page.aspx?cat=7002&id=10284

Wondering What to Do With Used Needles and Lancets When You Are Out? 

It's hard to place sharps in a puncture proof container if you are out and on-the-go, but it's not impossible. Although you may feel the urge to flush used sharps down the toilet or place them in the trash, this is not the answer. Instead, keep a puncture proof container in your car at all times. If you are worried about size, you can purchase a portable container that is reasonable in size. Sharps containers can be purchased from medical supply companies, pharmacies, and on-line. For more information go to: Sharp Disposal Containers

Resources: 

New York State Department of Health. Accessed on-line. July 17, 2015: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/aids/consumers/prevention/needles_syringes/sharps/

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