The Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal knows of no known community sponsored sharps disposal drop-off programs in the state of North Carolina. The state currently allows patients to place used needles/pen needles, lancets (sharps) in a household container such as a laundry detergent bottle, bleach bottle or other opaque sturdy plastic container with a screw-top lid. When that container is full, you should place it in your regular garbage – not recycling.
Though this is still approved in North Carolina it is the least desirable way to dispose of used sharps. Please read below for other options you may try before disposing of your container in the household trash.
PLEASE NOTE: If you have your sharps in a red sharps container, these containers are typically not permitted in the regular garbage because they are marked BIO HAZARDOUS MATERIAL. Bio hazardous material is not allowed in the household garbage. In this case it’s the actual container that is not permitted – not the sharps.
You may want to ask a healthcare facility (doctor’s office, clinic, nursing home, hospital, fire station) if they would be willing to dispose of your container for you. These facilities are not required to take these containers from the public and often won’t because of the cost they incur to dispose of medical waste (they typically pay by poundage). But it may be worth a try.
Safe disposal options for needles and syringes
Household generated “sharps” include hypodermic needles, syringes, and lancets. They are typically used in the home for insulin injection or for administering medications to treat other chronic diseases such as allergies, arthritis, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis B, and HIV.
Managing and disposing of household generated sharps safely reduces pollution to the environment and prevents injury and disease transmission from needle-sticks.
Never leave needles or syringes on streets, in parks, or anywhere else where they could injure someone.
Store at home
If you have a medical facility that accepts sharps from the community for disposal, either purchase a sharps disposal container from a pharmacy or ask your specialty pharmacy to provide you with a sharps container (these are typically readily available if you receive your medication through the mail).
If disposal sites open to the public are not available in your area, DO NOT use a sharps container. Instead, USE an empty rigid plastic consumer product container with a screw-on lid, such as a laundry detergent bottle.
Do not store used sharps in glass bottles, soda bottles, milk jugs, aluminum cans, or coffee cans.
If you are bringing used sharps to a clinic or hospital collection site or using a mail-back program, follow their requirements, which may include use of a pre-purchased sharps container.
Always keep storage containers for used sharps out of the reach of children.
Disposal of Used Needles
Never place containers with used needles or syringes in a recycling bin.
Never place loose sharps in the garbage.
Do not place sharps in containers with a BIOHAZARD label on the outside of the container in the household garbage. Biohazard material is typically not allowed in household trash. Sharps containers with a Biohazard label are usually treated as medical waste. To find out if your state allows sharps containers in the household trash contact your state waste department for specific regulations on household medical waste.
Clinics and Hospital Collection Sites
Some medical waste facilities such as, clinics, physician offices, EMT stations and hospitals have collection programs for needles, lancets, and syringes for use by their patients at home. If your healthcare provider has a collection program, learn about and follow their instructions for sharps storage and disposal.
DO NOT bring used needles and syringes to your clinic or hospital if they do not accept them.
Disposal Options Available to North Carolina Residents
The Waste Management Division of North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has developed a document on its website entitled Protect Your Trash Collect which includes a section on safe disposal of sharps or syringes used in the home.
I. Mail-back Programs
Mail-back disposal programs allow home sharps users to mail used sharps to licensed disposal facilities as a safe disposal option. Such programs charge a fee for this service. Check with your health care provider or pharmacist, or search the yellow pages or Internet using key words “sharps mail-back.”
II. Needle Destruction Devices
Devices or containers with mechanisms that bend, break, incinerate (destroy by high heat), or shear needles are called sharps needle destruction devices.
A destruction device that incinerates needles and lancets can be used at home to destroy needles immediately after use. These small, portable devices use a few seconds of high heat to melt needles and reduce them to BB-size balls. Previously used only in healthcare facilities, these devices are now available in smaller, less expensive models for home use.
Once the needle or lancet is destroyed by heat in a destruction device, the remaining syringe and melted metal can be safely disposed of in the garbage (not the recycling container).
A needle cutter that automatically stores the cut needles is also useful while away from home when a disposal container is not available. The remains of the syringe after the needle has been clipped can be placed in either a household container or a sharps container (if there is a site available to drop off the sharps container). When the needle clipper is full, simply place it in the storage container (household or sharps container) and dispose of properly.
III. Legal, but Less Safe
In North Carolina it is currently legal to put used sharps that are in a laundry detergent bottle with a lid into the garbage.
However, this is highly discouraged because of the injury and health risks it places on garbage hauler and processing facility workers. It is best to use one of the options previously listed for safe management and disposal of used sharps.
NEVER PLACE LOOSE NEEDLES AND SYRINGES IN THE TRASH!
Label container “Do Not Recycle.”
Put sharps in point-first.
Containers more than half-full should be disposed of.
Store sharps in closed container with the cap screwed on.
Although placing household generated sharps in the regular trash may be allowable under state rule, some municipalities prohibit this disposal method. Please check with the local authority to determine if this practice is acceptable in your community. You should contact your county or city waste manager, public health official, sanitary department, or environmental health department.
For more information, contact the Waste Management Division of North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/guest or call (919)733-0692.