Safe Disposal of Household Medical Sharps
Each year, thousands of Mainers use millions of syringes, pen needles and lancets or “sharps” to control medical conditions like diabetes, arthritis and allergies. Stockpiling used sharps in the home or improper disposal by throwing them in the trash or flushing them down the toilet puts you and your family, 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 diseases.
If you or a loved one use sharps at home, you are allowed under Maine law to dispose of them in your household trash if you take the proper precautions to secure and label the container before doing so.
Homemade Household Sharps Containers
Make your own sharps container using a heavy puncture-proof plastic bottle – like for laundry detergent. Place sharps in the bottle and when it’s full, seal it with the cap and heavy-duty tape, mark “Do Not Recycle” and simply place in your household trash.
There are also products for sale – usually at your local pharmacy – that make containment convenient and that can be thrown away in your regular trash when full.
Needle Clipping Devices
Devices that clip the needle off a syringe allow you to throw the remaining piece in your household trash. When the device is full, wrap it in heavy-duty tape and throw in the trash too.
Maine Residents: Request a free needle clipping device, courtesy of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Becton, Dickinson and Company, and Rite Aid Pharmacy.
Designated Sharps Containers
Rigid home sharps containers with locking lids may be placed in your household trash when full. While these containers may be available for purchase at your local pharmacy, some manufacturers may also provide them free of charge through patient support programs.
Mail-Back Sharps Containers/Envelopes
Pre-paid mail-back containers or envelopes, available for purchase at your local pharmacy, are designed to be filled and mailed back to the manufacturer or manufacturer’s disposal partner for proper disposal.
Some hospitals may accept used household sharps and dispose of them as part of their waste stream. Contact the Environmental Services Department at your local hospital for more information.
When You Are Away From Home
All Maine Turnpike Authority rest stops, some Maine airports and some retail stores have sharps disposal boxes for use while you are away from home.
Additional Resources for Sharps Users
Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention
Division of Infectious Disease