Home Sharps & Medicine Disposal

Every year, people throughout the country use billions of needles, syringes and lancets — also known as sharps — to manage medical conditions at home. Improperly discarded sharps potentially expose people to infection or injury, posing a health risk not only to sanitation, housekeeping and janitorial workers, but also pets, children and other family members. Besides stick wounds, used needles can also transmit serious diseases from herpes to HIV. The following guidelines provide methods to properly dispose sharps and protect yourself and others.

Disposal Options for Individuals Using Sharps at Home

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified several ways to safely discard medical sharps:

  • Place sharps in either a medical sharps container (purchased from a pharmacy or health care provider) or in a heavy-plastic or metal container.

  • Use household containers, such as plastic detergent bottles, only if the lid is secured with heavy-duty tape and the words, “Do Not Recycle,” are written on the container with a permanent marker.

  • Never place the container in the recycle bin.

  • Do not overfill containers. To maximize space, you can use a needle cutter/destroyer (severs needles from the syringe and costs anywhere from $5 to $140).

  • Keep containers out of reach from children and pets.

  • Fully encapsulate sharps prior to disposal in a solid waste receptacle. (You can add quick-drying cement, plaster or similar materials to the container of sharps as long as you allow the container to dry before disposal.)​

  • Many municiplaities have used sharps and medication drop-off locations or annual events for collection. For instance the City of Flagstaff Office of Sustainability hosts a collection event twice a year,  DROP OFF DAY where they collect medications, syringes, electronics, and offer document shredding. They post these events on their website and Facebook page; and are FREE.

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