Know Your Options for Safe & Legal Disposal of Needles & Sharps

Posted on: 23 January 2017

Most things can be tossed into a trash can or recycle bin without much thought, but medical waste is not one of them. Properly disposing of medical waste presents special challenges, and getting rid of needles and other sharps, such as lancets, requires an additional level of caution and forethought. To meet this challenge, authorities as well as private industry have developed several solutions in the form of safe disposal options. Below are some of these options and what you should know when it comes time to throw out used needles and sharps:

Community Disposal Sites

Within your local community, you likely already have several options for safely throwing away needles and other sharps. These options include facilities that are available at local health clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and government health units. For help in finding these locations, you can check with your healthcare provider, who may also be willing to accept your needles and sharps.

Mail Disposal Services

If you suffer from mobility concerns or are otherwise unable to leave your home on a regular basis, you may wish to consider using a mail disposal service. These services are provided by private companies that charge fees, but the convenience is often worth the cost for individuals.

Mail disposal services send subscribers special sharps collection containers, which are appropriately marked as such and are colored red, and individuals place used syringes and lancets inside them. Once these containers are full, the subscriber seals the lid and mails it back to the company in a provided shipping container.

Destruction Devices

One innovative means of handling needles and other sharps is destroying the waste at home. Such destruction can include grinding or melting to remove sharp edges or points; this can be accomplished by using special devices designed for destruction or by other means. However, for safety for the user, it is best to use devices that have been reviewed and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Medical sharps destruction devices are available online from retailers, and you may also be able to purchase them from local pharmacies.

Regular Waste Stream Disposal

If you live in certain states, you may legally and safely dispose of needles and sharps within your regular household waste stream, provided you adhere to special precautions and properly prepare the waste ahead of time. Before doing so, however, you must check with your state health department or other appropriate regulatory authority to determine if it is legal to do so.

If you are permitted to legally dispose of your own needles and sharps, here is an overview of what you must do in order to render the waste safe for disposal in household garbage:

Place needles and sharps into a sealable, heavy plastic container—Be sure to use containers that can't be punctured easily, such as those used for laundry detergent, and do not use any containers that can disintegrate readily, such as cardboard milk or orange juice cartons. In addition, the container must be sealable with a screw top or other appropriate tight-fitting lid.

Disinfect the needles and sharps—Once you are ready to throw away a container, you will need to disinfect the needles and sharps to kill any microorganisms that might exist. An easy, safe way to do so is by filling the container with a solution of laundry bleach and water. To ensure the solution is sufficiently potent, be sure to use bleach in a ratio of no less than one-half cup of bleach per gallon of water. Soak the needles and sharps for at least 10 minutes, then carefully drain the solution from the container into a sink or toilet.

Seal and bag the container—The last step is to seal the container tightly and place it into two ordinary plastic trash bags, both tied shut. You may then dispose of the sealed, bagged container into your garbage pickup bin. Be sure not to place it into your recycle container, as the waste is not recyclable.

Learn more by contacting resources like ESP Dumpsters & Waste Services.