Diabetes “needles” refer to syringes used to deliver insulin as well as lancets that gently puncture the skin for blood glucose checks. Proper disposal of these needles -- or "sharps," as they are often referred to -- is very important to protect yourself and others from potential harm and infection. In most states, it is illegal to simply throw syringes and lancets into the garbage where they could become hazards for others.
Here are some tips for the safe and responsible disposal of diabetes-related sharps:
- Do not reuse a syringe or lancet. Doing so increases the chance of infection and the level of discomfort because the needle becomes more dull after the first use.
- Do not recap a syringe after using it to avoid possibly puncturing the finger.
- Separate the plunger from the syringe to decrease the possibility of another person using it.
- Deposit the used syringe or lancet into a heavy-duty, non-breakable container that cannot be punctured, such as an old detergent container. Containers specifically designed for disposing of sharps can be purchased at most drug stores or online.
- When the disposal container is full, it should be closed, taped, and disposed of according to laws in your geographic area. In some states, the sharp container can be placed in your trash can as long as it is properly sealed. Never place a container with sharps in the recycle bin.
- Mail-back disposal programs are also available that allow home sharps users to mail used sharps to licensed disposal facilities. Such programs charge a fee for this service. Check with your local pharmacist or look online using the key words “sharps mail-back.”
- When traveling away from home, an alternative to carrying a sharps container is a needle cutter. The needle cutter safely clips the syringe needle near the base and stores it until you can deposit the clipped needles in an appropriate sharps container. These needle cutters can also be purchased at most drug stores.
Joslin Diabetes Center. "Tips for disposing of sharps."