A critical public health issue exists in the United States: limited options available for the safe disposal of used needles and other sharps in the community at large.
In one year, approximately 9 million syringe users administer at least 3 billion injections outside traditional health care facilities. Nearly two-thirds of these “at-home” injectors are people with diabetes and patients administering home health treatment for allergies, infertility, arthritis, migraines, HIV, and Hepatitis C and other ailments. Many self-injectors are unaware of safe disposal methods available to them and simply throw their used needles in the trash or flush them down the toilet, posing a risk of injury or potential infection to anyone who encounters them.
Despite the growing problems associated with improper disposal of household-generated needles, there are no consistent regulations or guidelines for safe disposal. Laws and regulations governing medical waste (including needles and other sharps) were initially designed for health care facilities and medical waste operations. These laws and regulations are separate from household waste.
Because regulations and guidelines for needle disposal in local communities are often inconsistent and poorly publicized, we serve as an information resource for community-sponsored sharps disposal programs and other safe disposal options.