For Further Information Contact Disposal
Waste Programs Division
Solid Waste Inspections and
1110 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007
(602) 771-4829 (Hearing impaired)
Web site: waste.azdeq.gov
Updated April 2010
Publication No. C 08-02
printed on recycled paper
Janice K. Brewer, Governor
Henry R. Darwin, Director
Learn More About Sharps…
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Provides links to state Web sites to learn more
about public health laws and regulations affecting
community syringe disposal options.
Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal:
Home needle destruction devices sever, melt, or
burn the needle. For a list of vendors visit
Earth 911 / Household Hazardous Waste
Users can enter their zip code and view a list of
sharps disposal programs available in their area.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
Learn more about safe community needle disposal
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the term 'sharps' mean?
Sharps is the term used to describe any item that is
capable of puncturing the skin such as syringes, needles,
lancets, broken glass with blood on it, scalpels, etc.
Because these 'sharps' potentially have disease-carrying
blood or other bodily fluids on them, which
can live on these objects for over a week, they are
capable of 'injecting' that contaminated blood or fluid
into anyone who comes in contact with them.
What are sharps used for?
People use sharps to treat all kinds of medical condi-tions
in the home, and the number of conditions
treated at home with injectable medicines continues
to rise. Sharps users may use lancets and/or needles
and syringes to deliver medicine for conditions such as:
• Allergies • Arthritis
• Cancer • Diabetes
• Hepatitis • HIV/AIDS
• Infertility • Migraines
• Multiple Sclerosis • Osteoporosis
If someone is self-injecting for medical
conditions that are not contagious (like
diabetes or allergies), why is it important
to dispose of the syringes, needles and
For those community workers and the general public
who may come into contact with dirty needles, the
fear factor is the same because it is impossible to
know whether needles have been used on a diabetic
cat or on a person with HIV. There are millions of
people in the U.S. infected with hepatitis B and C,
HIV, syphilis, or other contagious diseases which can
be contracted from a stick with a used hypodermic
Why can't needles/syringes be thrown in
Some sharps users throw their used needles in the
trash or flush them down the toilet. Used sharps left
loose among other waste can hurt sanitation workers
during collections, at sorting and recycling facilities,
and at landfills, or become lodged in equipment, forc-ing
workers to remove them by hand. Children,
adults, and even pets are at risk for needle-stick
injuries when sharps are disposed of improperly at
home or in public settings like parks.
Every year millions of people throughout the
country use billions of needles, syringes, and
lancets – also called sharps – to manage medical
conditions at home. Finding ways to safely
dispose of used medical sharps is an important
public health priority.
Those who use sharps must be aware of
proper disposal methods to avoid haphazard
disposal habits and accidental exposure to used
sharps. Although needle-stick injuries are
occupational hazards for sanitation, house-keeping,
and janitorial workers, children and
pets are also at risk for being stuck by improperly
discarded used sharps.
Safe Disposal Options -
Protect Yourself, Protect Others
The Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) has issued new recommendations on
disposal of used syringes generated at home.
These new recommendations discourage
users from throwing their used needles in
the garbage. They encourage disposal of
used needles through other means such as:
N Community drop-off programs
N Household hazardous waste facilities
N Sharps mail-back programs
N At-home needle destruction devices
Needle-stick injuries are a preventable
health risk and specific actions can be taken
to protect yourself and others.
The EPA has identified several types of
safe and convenient disposal programs for
self- injectors. Instead of placing sharps in the
trash, self-injectors are encouraged to use
any of these alternative disposal methods:
Drop-Off Collection Sites
Sharps users can take their filled sharps
container to appropriate collection sites
such as 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 the household waste
stream. Some of these programs may not
be available in your community, so check
first with any potential drop-off site.
Household Hazardous Waste
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 or events, and place them in
the sharps collection bins. Sharps might
not be accepted at some collection
sites, so check before going.
Used sharps are placed in special containers
which are mailed (in accordance with U.S.
Postal Service requirements) to a collection
site for proper disposal. Mail-back programs
are available for individual use by sharps
users, and can also serve as a disposal
method for community collection sites.
These programs work especially well for
rural communities, facilities 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. This service usually
requires a fee. Fees can vary, depending
on the size of the container.
At-home Needle Destruction Devices
Several manufacturers offer a variety of
products that allow you to destroy used
needles at home. These devices sever, burn, or
melt the needle and allow the sharps user to
discard the syringe or plunger in the garbage.
These devices can reduce or eliminate the
danger of sharps entering the waste stream.
The prices of these devices vary according
to product type and manufacturer.
It has been a common practice to dispose
of sharps in a household plastic container or
coffee can, secure the lid, write “do not
recycle” on the outside, and put it in the
household trash. Unfortunately that
method has not effectively taken sharps
out of the waste stream. Even when nee-dles
are contained in a coffee can, bleach
bottle or other plastic container, these
sharps containers are often crushed dur-ing
processing, releasing the needles,
syringes, and lancets into the waste
stream and putting sanitation workers at
risk. Although this practice is not illegal, it is
no longer recommended by the
Environmental Protection Agency.
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