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management of discarded needles and other sharps
can pose a health risk to the public and waste workers.
For example, discarded needles may expose waste
workers to potential needle stick injuries and potential
infection when containers break open inside garbage
trucks or needles are mistakenly sent to recycling
facilities. Janitors and housekeepers also risk
injury if loose sharps poke through plastic garbage
bags. Used needles can transmit serious diseases,
such as HIV and hepatitis.
The Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal comprised of businesses, community groups, nonprofit organizations, and government, promotes public awareness and solutions for safe disposal of needles, syringes, and other sharps in the community.
The Coalition has identified several types of safe
disposal programs for self- injectors. Instead of
placing sharps in the trash, self-injectors are
encouraged to use any of these alternative disposal
Box or Supervised Collection Sites
Sharps users can take their own sharps containers
filled with used needles to appropriate collections
sites: doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies,
health departments, or fire stations. Services
are free or have a nominal fee. Check with your
pharmacist or other health care provider for availability
in your area.
- Mail-Back Programs
Sharps users place their used sharps in special
containers and return the container by mail to
a collection site for proper disposal. This service
usually requires a fee. Fees vary, depending on
the size of the container. Check with your health
care provider, pharmacist, yellow pages, or search
the Internet using keywords “sharps mail back.”
- Syringe Exchange Programs (SEP)
Sharps users can safely exchange used needles
for new needles. Contact the North American Syringe
Exchange Network at (253) 272-4857 or online at
- At-Home Needle Destruction Devices
Several manufacturers offer products that allow
you to destroy used needles at home. These devices
sever, burn, or melt the needle, rendering it
safe for disposal. Check with your pharmacist
or search the internet using keywords “sharps
disposal devices.” The prices of these devices
vary according to product type and manufacturer.
For more information:
- Call your local solid waste department or public
health department to determine the correct disposal
method for your area.
- Ask your health care provider or local pharmacist
if they offer disposal, or if they know of safe
disposal programs in the area.
- Contact The Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal at (800) 643-1643. Ask about the availability of safe disposal programs in your area or for information on setting up a community disposal program. Visit the States page of EPA’s Wastes Web site for links to state health and solid waste/sanitation department contacts.
- Visit the Center
for Disease Control’s Safe Community Needle Disposal
Web site. This easy-to-use Web site is designed
for anyone interested in safe needle disposal.
It provides state-by-state and territory-by-territory
summaries of the laws and regulations affecting
the labeling, transportation, and disposal of
used needles and other sharps in the community.