How To Dispose Of Sharps
Living with diabetes means that you most likely generate a lot of sharps waste like needles, syringes, and CGM applicators. Thats 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 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 .
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.
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How To Dispose Of Insulin Pens
Diabetes affects nearly half a billion people all over the world. Insulin injections continue to be essential for patients with Type 1 diabetes and are also important therapy for Type 2 patients.
With the introduction of insulin pens, patients no longer have to go through the hassle of using a vial and syringe to inject insulin into their bodies every single day.
These pens contain an insulin filled cartridge, a dial to measure dosage, and a disposable needle. They allow simpler, more accurate, and convenient delivery as compared to using a vial and syringe.
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.
Its 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 dont want to buy a sharps container, you can use an empty laundry detergent or bleach bottle, as long as its a strong plastic container. An empty plastic water bottle wont 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, Id 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 .
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Dexcom: No Recycling Program
One of the questions we hear most often on the recycling front relates to the popular Dexcom G6 CGM. When it was first approved and launched in 2018, the companys leadership said they were mulling a recycling or takeback program specifically for the new Dexcom G6 single-button plastic inserter thats quite a bit larger than the previous version. Its considered mixed waste, having both non-recyclable metal and plastic parts inside.
On the companys FAQ page, the question Is Dexcom creating a recycling program for the sensor applicator? is met with a clear answer: No.
At this time, we can only recommend that the user dispose of the used applicator following local guidelines for blood contacting components, the page states.
Dexcoms senior public relations manager James McIntosh tells DiabetesMine that there was no decision on a potential takeback program for the Dexcom G6. But the upcoming Dexcom G7 model expected in 2022 will have a new fully-disposable form factor with a smaller sensor and transmitter, as well as a new auto-inserter.
That means itll reduce the volume of plastic and packaging by more than 25 percent compared to the Dexcom G6, he explains, adding: In the long-term, Dexcom is committed to being good stewards of the environment while providing the best possible products for our customers.
State Guidelines For California
Beginning on September 1, 2008, State law makes it illegal to dispose of home-generated sharps waste in the trash or recycling containers, and requires that all sharps waste be transported to a collection center in a sharps containers or other containers approved by the enforcement agency.
Section 117671 of the California Health and Safety Code defines home-generated sharps waste as hypodermic needles, pen needles, intravenous needles, lancets, and other devices that are used to penetrate the skin for the delivery of medications derived from a household, including a multifamily residence or household.
The Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery is working to help develop a safe, convenient, and cost-effective infrastructure for collecting and properly disposing of home-generated sharps waste. Decreasing the number of sharps disposed in landfills will help prevent potential health risks to landfill and material recovery facility workers.
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Disposing Of Needles In Alternative Ways
Needles May Not Be Properly Sanitized
When you have a fresh syringe or lancet, you know the tip is sanitary you dont have to worry about introducing pathogens into your body. If you want to reuse a sharp, however, you have to sanitize it manually. Unfortunately, theres the risk that it wont be fully sanitized, especially if youre in a hurry. Its better to completely eliminate the risk with a new device.
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How To Dispose Of Used Lancets And Test Strips
Along with diabetes management comes the responsibility of managing medical waste. Heres what to do with your used lancets, test strips, and insulin needles.
Millions of Americans live with lifelong medical conditions that require them to purchase medical supplies and begin a new routine to manage those conditions. Many people may find it challenging to adjust to having a serious medical responsibility added to their already busy schedule.
Diabetes in particular often requires several medical supplies to manage it well, and it can feel very intensive at first to start testing blood sugar and self-administering insulin shots or taking regular oral medication, paired with learning about the different diabetes supplies involved in self-care.
Overall, proper disposal of sharps and medical waste is not only a matter of being responsible for your own hazardous materials, but also a matter of doing your part to maintain public health and safety.
Many people also may be self-conscious or may lack self-confidence in their ability to use a lancet or syringe, which can lead to painful accidents that can even further discourage them from being confident in their own routines.
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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, youre allowed to throw your sealed sharps container in the household trash 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 its 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. Its a free website, and by simply typing in your zip code, youll 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 doesnt get easier than that!
You can watch this video to learn more about sharps and how to dispose of them.
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Public Health Risks From Sharps
Medical sharps are often found in household garbage, recyclables or are flushed down the toilet. When these needles end up in the waste stream, they can injure waste haulers, landfill operators and recycling facility workers. When they are flushed down toilets, they may cause problems in plumbing and wastewater treatment plants or may end up on beaches, causing a potential health risk to humans and animals.
All needle stick injuries demand expensive testing, may cause long-term emotional stress and increase the risk of exposure to such infectious diseases as Hepatitis B and HIV from contaminated needles. Costs for a typical needle stick can run upwards of thousands of dollars.
To reduce public health risks, Wisconsin rules require all citizens to manage sharps safely. It is illegal to put sharps in the trash or with recyclables. Sharps must be packaged safely and treated either at a licensed medical waste incinerator or by methods that render the sharps non-infectious, broken and unable to be reused. It is not legal to merely solidify sharps.
I Want To Help Where Can I Find Out About Organizing A Neighborhood Cleanup
Contact the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability at 503-823-7202 for city-organized cleanup dates and locations. Neighborhood Coalitions also schedule cleanup events:
Many neighborhoods and community groups are organizing clean up events. Talk to your local city government or neighborhood association about organizing an event close to home. Portland residents can find information about your neighborhood association from the City of Portland Office of Community & Civic Life at 503-823-4519.
Tell us how you feel about Multnomah County’s syringe drop boxes.
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Safe And Legal Disposal Of Syringes Needles And Lancets
Disposal of syringes, needles and lancets is regulated. These items are called “sharps.” They can carry hepatitis, HIV and other germs that cause disease. Tossing them into the trash or flushing them down the toilet can pose health risks for others. Regulations governing disposal of sharps protect garbage workers and the general public from needle sticks and illness.
There are different rules and disposal options for different circumstances. The main difference is between sharps that are used in a business and those that are used in the home for personal reasons. And, for home users, it makes a difference whether you live in the City of Seattle or if you live in an area of King County outside Seattle. The different regulations and disposal options are explained below. Haga click aquí para información en español.
Seattle, WA 98108 1-855-427-1999Business and commercial generators may NOT utilize the options outlined below. The following options are only for people who use sharps within their homes.
In King County there are options for disposing of sharps generated from personal use. The options differ somewhat depending on where you live. Proper preparation and disposal are important to avoid injury to yourself and others.
The following guidelines apply to sharps you use at home and to needles and syringes you might find around your home.
What Are Lancets And Test Strips Used For
Lancets are small, short needles encased in plastic, and are used to puncture the skin to obtain a blood sample. Standard lancets fit inside a lancing device designed to make the finger prick quick and painless. Single-use lancets, often referred to as safety lancets, are also available and can help avoid accidental puncture.
After the skin has been punctured, a small bead of blood will surface, which can then be collected using a glucose test strip. Glucose test strips are designed to absorb the blood sample into a sample chamber. There it is mixed with an enzyme and the glucose meter runs an electrical current through the mixture. The level of resistance to the current that the mixture has calculates a blood sugar reading. Then, based on that reading, the user can determine what action they may need to take to regulate their blood sugar levels.
Here are some helpful tips to remember if you are new to the self-management of diabetes, or if you have another condition that requires regular blood testing.
Dispose of needles immediately.
Once you have finished using your lancets, test strips, and, if needed, syringes, immediately dispose of them as they are now considered a biohazard, i.e. hazardous medical waste.
It is important to take this seriously.
Do not attempt to clean and re-use lancets or syringes with alcohol or any other anti-bacterial solution.
Never share needles.
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Disposing Of The Insulin Pen
People often prefer using insulin pens as they come with an autoinjector which makes the process easier. However, these pens do have the potential to cause injury if they arent handled properly.
Once youve used your insulin pen and need to discard or replace it, be sure to keep it in your sharps container.
You will also need to ensure that the sharps container is sealed and cannot be accessed easily.
Needle Disposal Options And Programs
Several options for disposing of needles outside of a health-care setting exist.
Community-based programs offer drop-off locations for used needles. Drop-off programs may exist at police stations, fire stations, physicians offices, hospitals, clinics, health departments, or medical waste facilities. An example of a community-based effort is found in New York State, which uses a program available through Chrysalis Environmental Services. This company, which produces products, services, and educational programs to ensure the safe and environmentally friendly disposal of residential medical waste, has established a kiosk program, a joint effort between participating pharmacies or other organizations, and a medical waste hauling company. As part of the program, electronic kiosks, called Zeedles, are placed in facilities to accept residential medical waste. Individuals may dispose of their used needles and syringes in a needle disposal container or into a container a home that they drop it into the kiosk. Additional information about the program is available at
Residential special waste pick up works well in small communities. Special recycling containers are placed outside the home to be picked up by trained waste workers. This may be done on a regular schedule or as a requested service.
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Where Do I Dispose Of Diabetic Syringes Or Other Medical Waste
Do not dispose of household medical sharps or other waste in syringe disposal boxes intended for community disposal. For households where syringes are used, place syringes in a sharps container and take them to a hazardous waste center:
Enroll in the Metro syringe disposal program for $5 and get a free sharps container each time you return one. A $5 hazardous waste fee for up to 35 gallons is also required. Group homes, residential care facilities and other commercial or business customers should contact a medical waste management company, their garbage hauler or Metros recycling hotline for disposal options. If you have questions about medical waste disposal, contact Metro at 503-234-3000.
How Should You Prepare For Syringe Disposal
The most dangerous part of the sharp is the end if you try to store or transport them as-is, theres a risk of injury. To combat this issue, you can take steps to prepare your equipment for sharps disposal. However, the most important thing to remember is that you shouldnt attempt to use household items to render your needles or lancets harmless, as this may cause injury. Instead, you can invest in devices specifically designed to dismantle or store sharps safely.
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Goodbye Omnipod Takeback Program
Insulet, the makers of the tubeless Omnipod pump, had a recycling program in the United States since 2008, but closed that down in 2018 because it wasnt being used enough to be efficient, the company says.
Insulets eco-friendly disposal program was once touted as a green initiative to keep biohazardous waste out of the environment. It separated any hazardous metals and materials and pulverized the remainder to make the materials more biodegradable.
Omnipod users in the United Kingdom and Canada can still use the programs operating in those countries. New Omnipod users in the United Kingdom receive information in their welcome letters about the disposal program. The program states that a partner company with a sustainability focus will make sure returned pods are safely disposed of in line with applicable waste disposal regulations, and that the heat from incineration generates steam that helps generate heat for other purposes.
Since waste disposal regulations and environmental guidelines vary by location, it makes sense that different countries would have different programs.
But its a shame to see that program close down in the United States due to underuse.