The majority of the counties in Florida offer residents a safe needle disposal program through the department of public health in each county. To find out if your county has a program go to the highlighted website below. This will take you to the Florida Department of Public Health website and list of counties with contact names and phone numbers.
For the counties that don’t offer a program you can follow the state guideline, which allows patients to place used needles/pen needles, lancets (sharps) in a household container such as a laundry detergent bottle, bleach bottle or other opaque sturdy plastic container with a screw-top lid. When that container is full, you should place it in your regular garbage – not recycling.
PLEASE NOTE: If you have your sharps in a red sharps container, these containers are typically not permitted in the regular garbage because they are marked BIO HAZARDOUS MATERIAL. Bio hazardous material is not allowed in the household garbage. In this case it’s the actual container that is not permitted – not the sharps.
You may want to ask a healthcare facility (doctor’s office, clinic, nursing home, hospital, fire station) if they would be willing to dispose of your container for you. These facilities are not required to take these containers from the public and often won’t because of the cost they incur to dispose of medical waste (they typically pay by poundage). But it may be worth a try.
Safe disposal options for needles and syringes
Household generated “sharps” include hypodermic needles, syringes, and lancets. They are typically used in the home for insulin injection or for administering medications to treat other chronic diseases such as allergies, arthritis, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis B, and HIV.
Managing and disposing of household generated sharps safely reduces pollution to the environment and prevents injury and disease transmission from needle-sticks.
Never leave needles or syringes on streets, in parks, or anywhere else where they could injure someone.
Store at home
If you have a medical facility that accepts sharps from the community for disposal, either purchase a sharps disposal container from a pharmacy or ask your specialty pharmacy to provide you with a sharps container (these are typically readily available if you receive your medication through the mail).
If disposal sites open to the public are not available in your area, DO NOT use a sharps container. Instead, USE an empty laundry detergent bottle with a screw-on lid. (See details later in this document.)
Do not store used sharps in glass bottles, soda bottles, milk jugs, aluminum cans, or coffee cans.
If you are bringing used sharps to a clinic or hospital collection site or using a mail-back program, follow their requirements, which may include use of a pre-purchased sharps container.
Always keep storage containers for used sharps out of the reach of children.
Disposal of Used Needles
Never place containers with used needles or syringes in a recycling bin.
Never place loose sharps in the garbage.
Do not place sharps in containers with a BIOHAZARD label on the outside of the container in the household garbage. Biohazard material is typically not allowed in household trash. Sharps containers with a Biohazard label are usually treated as medical waste. To find out if your state allows sharps containers in the household trash contact your state waste department for specific regulations on household medical waste.
Clinics and Hospital Collection Sites
Some medical waste facilities such as, clinics, physician offices, EMT stations and hospitals have collection programs for needles, lancets, and syringes for use by their patients at home. If your healthcare provider has a collection program, learn about and follow their instructions for sharps storage and disposal.
DO NOT bring used needles and syringes to your clinic or hospital if they do not accept them.
Disposal Options Available to Florida Residents
The Florida Department of Health publishes a document entitled, “Safe Disposal of Sharps at Home.” The guidance states: In order to reduce accidental needle sticks, the Florida Department of Health encourages individuals to find out how their county health department recommends disposing of used sharps. To see if a program exists in your county please go to the following site: http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/community/biomedical/sharps.htm
If you reside in the State of Florida and there is no sharps disposal program in your county, the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have developed the following disposal guidelines for home-generated biomedical waste:
I. Health Care Facilities
Consult a health care professional about the possibility of accepting home generated waste for disposal in the health care facility’s biomedical waste stream. This will insure that properly trained and equipped individuals handle these materials.
II. Mail-back Programs
Mail-back disposal programs allow home sharps users to mail used sharps to licensed disposal facilities as a safe disposal option. Such programs charge a fee for this service. Check with your health care provider or pharmacist, or search the yellow pages or Internet using key words “sharps mail-back.”
III. Needle Destruction Devices
Devices or containers with mechanisms that bend, break, incinerate (destroy by high heat), or shear needles are called sharps needle destruction devices.
A destruction device that incinerates needles and lancets can be used at home to destroy needles immediately after use. These small, portable devices use a few seconds of high heat to melt needles and reduce them to BB-size balls. Previously used only in healthcare facilities, these devices are now available in smaller, less expensive models for home use.
Once the needle or lancet is destroyed by heat in a destruction device, the remaining syringe and melted metal can be safely disposed of in the garbage (not the recycling container).
A needle cutter that automatically stores the cut needles is also useful while away from home when a disposal container is not available. The remains of the syringe after the needle has been clipped can be placed in either a household container or a sharps container (if there is a site available to drop off the sharps container). When the needle clipper is full, simply place it in the storage container (household or sharps container) and dispose of properly.
IV. Legal, but Less Safe
If no local county needle disposal options are available, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection recommends that individuals follow the guidelines below.
Place needles, syringes, lancets, and other sharp objects into hard plastic or metal containers with a screw-on top or other tightly securable lid (e.g., an empty paint can or liquid-detergent container).
Before discarding, reinforce the top with heavy-duty tape.
Do not put sharp objects in any container you plan to recycle.
Do not use clear plastic or glass containers.
Containers should be no more than ¾ full.
Check with your local waste collection service to make sure these disposal procedures are acceptable in your county. All sharps should be disposed of in rigid puncture-resistant containers such as liquid detergent bottles, bleach bottles or metal containers.
For more information contact: Florida Department of Health Bureau of Community Environmental Health/HSEC, 4052 Bald Cypress Way, BIN A08, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1710 or call Tel: (850) 245-4277.