Living with diabetes means that you most likely generate a lot of “sharps” waste like needles, syringes, and CGM applicators. That’s just part of living with this condition.
So how do you dispose of your sharps safely and easily?
In this post, I will cover what qualifies as sharps (you may be surprised by what common diabetes products are included) and how to dispose of sharps. I will also show you where to find the sharps disposal rules for your state, and how to search for disposal options by zip code (some cities will even pick up sharps where you live).
This post is sponsored by SafeNeedleDisposal.org, a website dedicated to teaching people how to safely dispose of used sharps wherever they are, from patient education nonprofit, NeedyMeds.
What are “sharps”
“Sharps” is a medical term for devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut skin. That means that your needles, syringes, infusion sets, lancets, CGM applicators(!), and auto-injectors are all “sharps”.
According to SafeNeedleDisposal.org, approximately 9 million people use sharps outside healthcare facilities every year. To keep everyone safe, sharps and sharps containers should always be disposed of appropriately.
How to store used sharps at home
Sharps should not be thrown in the trash or the recycle bin, regardless of whether they are used or unused. Sharps that are improperly disposed of may cause injury.
It’s recommended that you place your needles, syringes, and other sharps in a strong plastic container. You can buy sharps containers at pharmacies, medical supply companies, health care providers, and online.
If you don’t want to buy a sharps container, you can use an empty laundry detergent or bleach bottle, as long as it’s a strong plastic container. An empty plastic water bottle won’t do, as the sharps could penetrate the thin plastic.
Should you want to get rid of sharps in their original packaging that are not expired, I’d recommend that you contact World Medical Relief, since they may accept them and use them for a good cause. Call 313-866-5333 or visit https://www.worldmedicalrelief.org/.
When should sharps containers be emptied or thrown out?
Don’t fill your sharps container to the brim. When about ¾ full, seal it up and start a new container. If you buy a sharps container, it will most likely indicate when it’s time to empty it.
How to dispose of a sharps container
Now that you have a full sharps container, then what? Can you throw a sharps container in the garbage?
The answer to this might be somewhat surprising, but in most US states, you’re allowed to throw your sealed sharps container in the household trash bin (NOT in the recycle bin). However, you are NOT allowed to place sharps in the household trash in California, Massachusetts, certain parts of Washington, and a few other areas so it’s important to know your local rules.
I highly recommend you use SafeNeedleDisposal.org to learn your local rules and locate a safe disposal drop-off for your sharps containers. It’s a free website, and by simply typing in your zip code, you’ll be directed to where you can dispose of your sharps container near you or if your area allows at-home disposal.
When I typed in my zip code, I was somewhat surprised to find that there are 7 facilities where I can drop off sharps containers within 10 miles of my house.
You can also click on the interactive map to see your local rules. After clicking on California on the interactive map on SafeNeedleDisposal.org, I learned that my city has a “City Resident Pickup” program and I simply need to schedule a pickup for them to come and collect my sharps container. It doesn’t get easier than that!
You can watch this video to learn more about sharps and how to dispose of them.