Get the facts on safe sharps and pharmaceutical disposal from home.
Many homeowners are uninformed on safe medical disposal practices. This lack of knowledge can lead to harmful effects on the environment and endangers household members or the general public. The only options to ensure your waste is disposed safely and securely is through take-back and mail-back programs.
Did you Know: A USGS study found 80% of the 139 rivers and streams tested in 30 states contained low amounts of antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals from flushed pharmaceuticals and humans waste. The FDA recommends flushing unwanted prescription drugs only if residents do not have access to take-back programs.
- Many landfills are not properly equipped to prevent medications from reaching water supplies.
- Trace amounts of chemicals from drugs are often found even after water treatment facilities filter used water and have been known to effect the ecosystem.
Besides the environmental implications, tossing unused medication in the trash could lead to them falling into the wrong hands such as children or pets increasing risk of accidental overdose and death.
Many communities offer drug take-back sites where unused drugs can be dropped off and will be properly treated and disposed of. Talk to your local municipality or health department for information regarding local drop-off programs. Also, if you have controlled substances, check to make sure that the drop off site has authorized personnel ready to receive them.
The DEA has authorized collection sites in communities across the country where unused drugs, including controlled drugs, can be safely disposed. To find an authorized collector near you, visit the DEA’s website or call their call center at (1-800-882-9539). Information on annual take-back days can also be found on their site.
Sharps are any bio-hazardous material that could puncture skin and is contaminated with bodily fluids. Improperly disposing can lead to the spread of infectious diseases and injuries from needlesticks. The CDC reports that 30% of sharps related injuries occur after use and prior to disposal, while another 11% is disposal related.
What Not to Do
- Flush sharps down the toilet
- Throw them loosely into the garbage
- Try to recap used sharps
Sharps should be disposed in a FDA approved sharps container. The containers should be made of heavy-duty plastic, leak-resistant, properly labeled, and equipped with a puncture-proof lid. Sharps containers can be purchased online or through medical supply stores. If you don’t have easy access to approved containers, the FDA recommends throwing sharps in a heavy-duty, leak resistant container like a coffee can or a laundry detergent bottle. The lid needs to be sealed and puncture resistant as well.
Call your local trash or public health department for information on properly disposing of sharps. Some communities may offer opportunities to drop off filled sharps containers in pharmacies or hospitals.
Take-back sites may not be an option for a lot of people, especially in rural communities. If this is the case, look into a waste mail-back program. Waste mail-back programs provide a convenient, cost-effective, and eco-friendly solution tailored to individual waste generation. They offer safe options for both sharps and pharmaceutical disposal from home.
- FDA approved collection containers are sent with a pre-paid shipping box.
- Once the containers are filled, they are sent back and properly treated and disposed by your medical waste provider.
- A manifest should be sent as proof the waste was properly destroyed.
This is a smart choice if:
- You can’t easily access a drop-off or take-back center.
- You or a family member has diabetes or other disease that may require frequent needle use.
- A loved one recently passed and you need a one-time service to dispose of unused drugs.
The bottom line is these types of waste need to be disposed of as quickly and as safely as possible. Find a take-back site near you or use a respectable mail-back service.