The FDA recommends that used needles and other sharps be immediately placed in FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers. FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers are generally available through pharmacies, medical supply companies, health care providers, and online.
The FDA has evaluated the safety and effectiveness of these containers and has cleared them for use by health care professionals and the public to help reduce the risk of injury and infections from sharps.
FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers are made from rigid plastic and come marked with a line that indicates when the container should be considered full, which means it’s time to dispose of the container. Below are examples of FDA-cleared sharps containers:
FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers are available in a variety of sizes, including smaller travel sizes to use while away from home.
If an FDA-cleared container is not available, some organizations and community guidelines recommend using a heavy-duty plastic household container as an alternative. The container should be leak-resistant, remain upright during use and have a tight fitting, puncture-resistant lid, such as a plastic laundry detergent container.
Household containers should also have the same basic features of a good sharps disposal container:
When your container is about 3/4 full, follow your community guidelines for proper disposal methods.
The safest way to dispose of a used needle is to immediately place it in a sharps disposal container to reduce the risk of needle sticks, cuts and punctures from loose sharps. If you cannot find a sharps disposal container right away, you may need to recap the needle or use a needle clipper until you have an opportunity to dispose of sharps in an appropriate sharps disposal container. Never throw away loose needles and other sharps in trash cans or recycling bins, and never flush them down the toilet.
If you need to put the cap back on the needle (recap), do not bend or break the needle and never remove a hypodermic needle from the syringe by hand. This may result in accidental needle sticks, cuts or punctures. Recapping should be performed using a mechanical device or the one-handed technique (see below for step-by-step instructions).
Recapped needles should be placed in a disposal container at the next available opportunity.
The One-Handed Needle Recapping Method
There are products available for safely storing used needles at home or while traveling. These devices can usually be purchased at pharmacies and medical supply stores.
A needle clipper automatically stores cut needles when a disposal container is not available. The remaining syringe after the needle has been clipped can be placed in either a household container or a sharps container. When the needle clipper is full, empty the needles into a household container or a sharps container and dispose according to your state regulations.
A needle destruction device is a small, portable machine that incinerates needles, melting them into “BB-size” balls. Once the needle is destroyed, the remaining syringe and melted metal can be safely disposed in the regular garbage (not the recycling). Previously used only in healthcare facilities, these devices are now available for home use.
Before using any of the above procedures, check your community guidelines for acceptable sharps disposal methods.