Importance of Proper Sharps Disposal in the Home

Ron Stoker


Ron Stoker
Executive Director
International Sharps Injury Prevention Society

Healthcare workers worldwide are concerned about needlesticks and other sharps injuries that result in life-threatening infections.  This includes home healthcare professionals and waste management personnel.   Home healthcare uses needles, syringes, lancets, auto injectors and infusion sets.

These sharps are used at home to manage medical conditions such as allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, and psoriasis.

Over 7 billion sharps are disposed of each year in the United States.  A great percentage of that trash has been used to treat diabetics.  Blood lancets, glucose sensor introducer needles, and syringes, pens, and infusion set introducer needles are used to monitor and deliver life-sustaining insulin. Unfortunately, the same equipment that is used for sustaining life threatens the health and welfare of sanitation workers and other unsuspecting individuals that might handle garbage.  There are injuries in terms of garbage disposal, cleaning personnel, trash collectors, individuals involved in home care and even children who sometimes reach into the trash.

Contaminated needles and other sharps are unsafe to people and pets if not disposed of safely because they can injure people and spread infections that cause serious health conditions. The most common infections include Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV), and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Safe sharps container disposal is important whether you are at home, at work, at school, traveling, or in other public places such as hotels, parks, and restaurants. It is imperative to never place loose needles and other sharps (those that are not placed in a sharps disposal container) in the household or public trash cans or recycling bins.  And NEVER flush them down the toilet. When sharps are disposed of in this manner it places children, household members, housekeepers, janitors and sewage workers at risk of being harmed.

What is the best method to dispose of sharps in a home environment?    Used sharps should be placed in an approved sharps disposal container.  These containers are made of puncture-resistant plastic with leak-resistant sides and bottom. They also have a tight fitting, puncture-resistant lid.

Safe Disposal

Although it is legal to place sharps containers in the trash in some municipalities it places people at risk.   ISIPS recommends that families utilizing medical sharps consider a mail-back program.  Special sharps containers can be sent through the mail for disposal with shipping cost included in the price of the sharps container. The number of people injured with contaminated sharps would be drastically reduced if all patients with diabetes followed safe practices for sharps disposal.

For more information on sharps injury prevention go to or by sending an email to

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