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Disposal of Medical Sharps | Medical Waste | Wastes

Photo: needle

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

  • Photo: Needles in jarDrop
    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
    Exit EPA Disclaimer.
  • 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

    Exit EPA Disclaimer
    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.


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