Types of Sharps Disposal Programs
Drop Box Collection Points:
Community drop-off sites, located in pharmacies, police and fire departments, and public drop boxes.
Sharps users can take their filled sharps container to appropriate collections sites, which may include doctors’ offices, hospitals, health clinics, pharmacies, health departments, community organizations, police and fire stations, and medical waste facilities. These programs often give self-injectors the option of continuing to use empty household containers to collect sharps, but prevent the sharps from entering into the household waste stream. Most states don’t offer these types of programs, but they are the most cost effective for the end user. States where these programs are readily available include California, Floriday, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin.
Household hazardous waste collection sites: Self-injectors can place their used sharps in a special sharps container or, in some cases, an approved household container, take them to municipal household hazardous waste collection sites, and place them in the sharps collection bins. These sites also commonly accept hazardous materials such as cleaners, paints, and motor oil. Many communities already have hazardous waste drop-off sites available for the collection of oil, batteries, computers, etc. Check with your local waste provider to find if needles are collected at these sites.
Supervised Container Collection Sites:
Similar to a drop-box collection center, sharps users can take their own sharps containers filled with used needles to appropriate supervised collection sites. These may include, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, hospitals, health departments, fire stations, medical waste facilities, and household hazardous waste drop-off sites.
Home users place used sharps in a special “sharps” container and return it by mail to a collection site to be disposed of properly.
Used sharps are placed in special containers, which are mailed (in accordance with U.S. Postal Service) to a collection site for proper disposal. Mail-back programs are available for individual use by sharps users, and may also serve as a disposal method for community collection sites. These programs work especially well for rural communities, communities that don’t already have a medical waste pick-up service (e.g., school systems, retail outlets, sporting arenas, casinos), and individuals who wish to protect their privacy. Mailbacks are virtually accepted by any state as a safe option for needle disposal. Please check our disposal option page (add link) to see where you can purchase a mail back program.
Syringe Exchange Programs:
These enable injection drug users to exchange used syringes for new ones. Some state and local governments, as well as many non-profit organizations, fund these programs for users of illicit drugs as a means of inhibiting the spread of infectious diseases through needle sharing.
Sharps users can exchange their used needles for new needles. These programs are usually operated by community organizations, which properly dispose of the used needles collected at exchange sites. If you wish to find out more about the availability of syringe exchange programs in your community, contact the North American Syringe Exchange Network at 253 272-4857 or online at
Residential Special Waste Pick-up Service:
Home users place used sharps in a special “sharps” container and much like a recycling container, it is set outside for pick-up by special waste handlers.
Self-injectors can place their used sharps in a special container, similar to a recycling container, and place it outside their home for curbside collection by trained special waste handlers. Some programs require customers to call for a pickup, while others offer regular pickup schedules.
In-Home Individual Disposal Products:
There are a myriad of products available for “at-home” injectors, ranging from devices that sever the needle, burn the needle, retractable needles, portable and transportable sharps containers, mail-back containers, etc. The FDA should list all approved home disposal products.
A variety of products are available that destroy used needles and make them safe for disposal. These devices can, through various methods including snipping or breaking the needle or melting the sharp into a non-hazardous pellet, reduce or eliminate the danger of sharps entering the waste stream. For a list of available needle destruction devices please see our disposal option page.