Sharps Disposal

Safe disposal for needles and syringes

It is important to manage and dispose of needles, lancets and syringes (sharps) safely to prevent injury and disease transmission from needle-sticks. Never leave needles or syringes on streets, in parks, or anywhere else where someone could get injured.

1. Storage of destructive sharps

  • Store at home: purchase a sharps disposal container from a pharmacy or get an empty laundry bottle with a screw on lid. Do not store used sharps in glass bottles, aluminum cans or coffee cans. Always keep storage containers for used sharps out of the reach of children.
  • Destroy at home: Devices or containers with mechanisms that bend, break, incinerate (destroy by high heat), or shear needles are called sharps needle destruction devices.
  • A destruction device that incinerates needles and lancets can be used at home to destroy sharps immediately after use. They use a few seconds of high heat to melt needles and reduce them to BB-size balls. Previously used only in healthcare facilities, these devices are now available in smaller, less expensive models for home use. Once the needle or lancet is destroyed by heat in a destruction device, the remaining syringe and melted metal can be safely disposed of in the garbage (not the recycling container).
  • A needle cutter that automatically stores the cut needles is also useful while away from home when a disposal container is not available. A needle clipper that stores clipped needles should be disposed of at a sharps collection site or through a mail-back program.

2. Disposal options. Never place containers with used needles or syringes in a recycling bin or loose sharps in the garbage. Use one of the following options to dispose of the used needles, lancets, and syringes:

  • Home Needle-destruction Devices Once the needle or lancet is destroyed by heat in a destruction device, the remaining syringe and melted metal can be safely disposed of in the garbage (not the recycling container). A needle clipper that stores clipped needles should be disposed of at a sharps collection site or through a mail-back program.
  • Mail-back Programs Mail-back disposal programs allow home sharps users to mail used sharps to licensed disposal facilities as a safe disposal option. There is a fee charged for this service. Check with your health care provider or pharmacist, or search the yellow pages or Internet using key words “sharps mailback.”
  • Households can put used sharps in a labeled laundry detergent bottle to safely dispose of them. However, these containers must be brought by the household to the local transfer station or county landfill. They cannot be placed in the garbage for regular pick up. This will prevent injury and health risks placed on those who might come in contact with the sharps.

*Information collected from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

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