How Do I Dispose of My Syringes and Lancets?

Most people with insulin-dependent diabetes use syringes and lancets every day. However, many of them do not know how to dispose of these essential tools properly.

Knowing the Risks

If lancets and syringes are not disposed of properly, they can end up in places they don’t belong such as beaches. You should never place loose needles or lancets in a household or public trash cans or recycling bins, and you should also never flush them down the toilet.

Disposing of syringes and lancets incorrectly puts trash and sewage workers, janitors, housekeepers, household members and children at risk of being harmed. Keep in mind that there are 9 million Americans who use needles and other sharp tools to manage their medical conditions at home. This amounts to more than 3 billion used needles and other “sharps” that must be disposed of outside of hospitals and health care centers.

Storing Lancets and Syringes After Use

You can reduce the dangers of this type of waste by making simple changes at home. Begin by creating a safe container that will hold all of your used lancets and syringes. Make sure that the container you are going to use is made out of strong plastic so that needles cannot puncture it. The container should also have a small opening on top with a cap or lid that screws on tightly to prevent its contents from spilling. Many household items make good containers such as milk jugs, plastic bleach jugs, plastic liquid detergent bottles, and even coffee cans. When you have filled up your container, make sure to close the lid tightly with strong tape.

Try to keep the container in the same room where you usually take your insulin shot or test your blood sugar. Do not use glass containers because they can break easily, which also applies to lightweight plastic containers. If you are using a recyclable container to dispose of your syringes and lancets, make sure that it is labeled and visibly different so that it does not end up in a recycling bin by mistake. Lastly, make sure to keep your container out of reach of small children and pets.

Disposing of Containers

Once you've filled up a container that safely guards your used syringes and lancets, you must find a place where you can dispose of it, as this container cannot be simply thrown out with the regular garbage. Every community has its own guidelines, and it is important to become aware of them as well as the varying programs available near you. Check with your local trash removal services or health department to see which disposal methods are available in your area. Some examples of disposal methods are:

  1. Drop Box or Supervised Collection Sites: These are chosen collection sites, such as doctors' offices, hospitals, pharmacies, health departments, medical waste facilities, and police or fire stations. These services can be free or may have a nominal fee.
  2. Household Hazardous Waste Collection Sites: These are local public household hazardous waste collection sites that also commonly accept hazardous materials such as household cleaners, paints and motor oil.
  3. Mail-Back Programs: There are programs that allow you to mail certain FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers to a collection site for proper disposal, usually for a fee. Fees may vary depending on the size of the container. Remember to follow the container manufacturer's instructions because mail-back programs may have specific requirements on how to label sharps disposal containers.
  4. Residential Special Waste Pick-Up Services: Your can also look to see if your community offers special waste pick-up services that send trained special waste handlers to collect syringe and lancet disposal containers from your home. These kinds of services typically have a fee and many also have special requirements for the types of containers they will collect. In some cases, you may also be required to call and request pick-ups, but some also offer regular pick-up schedules.

Sources: FDA.com, EPA.gov
Photo: Pixabay

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