Monthly Environmental Education Column: Don't Get Stuck With Used Sharps With These Steps To Safe Disposal From Maine DEP

November 16, 2012

A note about In Our Backyard: In Our Backyard is an educational column written by staff from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and available to the press and the public. Send your environmental questions to or to In Our Backyard, Maine DEP, 17 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.

By Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine Department of Environmental Protection Director of Communications & Education

Management of medical conditions like diabetes, arthritis and allergies can be overwhelming at times, but the safe disposal of the sharps tens of thousands of Mainers use at home to treat them shouldn’t have to be.

November, which marks Diabetes Awareness Month, is a fitting time for those who use sharps or have loved ones who do to become better informed with the resources and regulations related to safe sharps disposal in our state.

Under Maine law, home sharps users are allowed to dispose of their used needles and lancets in their household trash if the proper precautions are first taken to secure the sharps in a puncture-proof container like a heavy-duty plastic detergent bottle with a cap. When full, these homemade containers can be secured with tape, labeled “Do Not Recycle” and thrown away.

There are also products – usually for sale at local pharmacies or available through some patient support programs – that make containment convenient and can also be placed with the regular household trash when full.

These include rigid red sharps buckets with locking lids, prepaid mail-back containers that return used sharps to the manufacturer or their disposal partner and needle clipping and storage device that clip tips off of a syringe, allowing the remaining piece to be thrown out.

For those traveling this holiday season, all Maine Turnpike Authority rest stops, some Maine airports and some retail stores have complimentary sharps disposal boxes.

Loose, used sharps should never be tossed in the trash or toilet because it puts sharps users and their families, janitorial and solid waste staff, and the general public at risk for accidental and painful needle sticks that can lead to infection, tetanus and transmission of blood-borne diseases.

Instead, by disposing of the millions of used sharps generated each year in Maine in the correct container, sharps users will never have to worry about them hurting anyone.

For more information on safe sharps disposal or to request a free educational brochure from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection or a BD Safe-Clip™ sharps clipping device that holds up to 1,500 needle tips donated to the DEP by BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) and Rite Aid, visit

This column was submitted by Samantha DePoy-Warren, Director of Communications & Educations at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

*Please note - Aroostook County media may add the following county-specific content into this column: Aroostook County sharps users may also bring their containerized sharps to public disposal kiosks at the police stations in the towns of Caribou, Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Madawaska, Fort Fairfield and Houlton, made possible by Cary Medical Center, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and local law enforcement and community groups.