Sharps users may be able to take their filled sharps container to appropriate collections sites, which may include doctors’ offices, hospitals, health clinics, pharmacies, health departments, community organizations, police and fire stations, and medical waste facilities. Services may be free or have a nominal fee. These programs often give self-injectors the option of continuing to use empty household containers to collect sharps, but prevent the sharps from entering into the household waste stream. Most states don’t offer these types of programs, but they are the most cost effective for the end user. States where these programs are readily available include California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin.
Self-injectors can place their used needles in a special sharps container or, in some cases, an approved household container, take them to municipal household hazardous waste collection sites, and place them in the sharps collection bins. These sites also commonly accept hazardous materials such as cleaners, paints, and motor oil. Many communities already have hazardous waste drop-off sites available for the collection of oil, batteries, computers, etc. Check with your local waste provider to find if needles are collected at these sites.
FDA-cleared filled sharps containers are placed in shipping containers, which are mailed (in accordance with the U.S. Postal Service) to a collection site for proper disposal. Mail-back programs are available in any state, and may also serve as a disposal method for community collection sites. This service usually requires a fee, and fees may vary depending on the size of the container. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions included with the disposal container, as these programs may have specific requirements for mail-back.
These programs work especially well for rural communities that do not have a household waste pick-up service and individuals who wish to protect their privacy. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist or search online under “sharps mail-back program.” Some drug companies also offer sharps mail-back programs. Please check under the “Solutions” tab for contact information.
Some state and local governments, as well as many non-profit organizations, fund these programs for users of illicit drugs as a means of inhibiting the spread of infectious diseases through needle sharing.
Sharps users can exchange their used needles for new needles. These programs are usually operated by community organizations, which properly dispose of the used needles collected at exchange sites. If you wish to find out more about the availability of syringe exchange programs in your community, contact the North American Syringe Exchange Network at www.nasen.org or 253-272-4857.
Self-injectors can place their used sharps in a special container, similar to a recycling container, and place it outside their home for curbside collection by trained special waste handlers. Some programs require customers to call for a pickup, while others offer regular pickup schedules. Check with your local waste provider to find out if this service is provided in your area.
A variety of products are available that destroy used needles and make them safe for disposal. These devices can reduce or eliminate the danger of sharps entering the waste stream. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist for information about “needle destruction devices” or “needle melting devices” and where to purchase them in your area.