Millions of people use needles, syringes, and other injection tools to self-administer healthcare treatments each year. People use sharps to manage a wide variety of conditions, including allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, psoriasis, and more.
If someone doesn’t have immediate access to an FDA-cleared container, it can be unclear how to dispose of used sharps. Disposal rules can vary by situation and location, which may lead to sharps being disposed of loosely—and improperly—in the trash. Adding to possible confusion, disposal options are different for businesses and household-generated sharps waste.
For HOUSEHOLD-generated Sharps
The best way to dispose of sharps is by using a mail-order, FDA-cleared sharps container. When purchasing this type of container, people can mail back their full containers to the mail-order service that the container was purchased from.
It is important to note that FDA-cleared containers can be purchased from local and chain pharmacies; however, these containers may or may not come with instructions on how to mail them back. And unfortunately, FDA-cleared sharps containers cannot be disposed of with regular household garbage. If you have purchased an FDA-cleared sharps container and are unsure of how to dispose of it, ask your pharmacy or doctor’s office if they will accept your sharps container. You can also look for a disposal site by going to https://safeneedledisposal.org/.
If you cannot purchase an FDA-cleared mail-order sharps waste container in store or online, Skagitonians have another option for disposing of household generated sharps.
In Skagit County, people can dispose of household generated sharps—including used syringes, needles, and lancets—in a correctly labeled container in their household garbage. Follow the steps below to ensure that all used sharps are disposed of safely and properly.
Step 1: Store
Used sharps should be placed in an opaque, hard plastic or metal container with a screw-on or secured lid. An empty bleach or detergent bottle works well! Do not use glass or thin plastic.
Step 2: Seal
When ¾ full (don’t overfill!), screw the lid on tightly and seal around the lid with duct tape or plastic tape.
Step 3: Sticker
Label the container with a special Skagit County Public Health label “Warning: Syringes. Do NOT Recycle.” printed on bright orange or red colored paper. Tape the label securely to the container with clear plastic tape. Labels can be downloaded from the Environmental Health webpage here. You can also request labels from our office by calling (360) 416-1500.
Step 4: Dispose
Dispose of the container with your regular household trash. Do NOT recycle.
Gloves, soiled bandages, and other items should be places in securely fastened plastic bags and disposed of with your regular trash.
For BUSINESS-Generated Sharps
Business are not allowed to dispose of biohazardous sharps with regular solid waste. Businesses are required to dispose of their collected biohazardous sharps via a licensed biomedical waste handler. On-site pick up services and mail order services are available. Businesses can contact Stericycle or Waste Management – Health Care to schedule services.
What about disposing of my unwanted medications in my home?
If you have unwanted, unused, or expired medication, Skagit County residents can safely dispose of these items for free by taking them to secure drop boxes, ordering free mail-back envelopes and/or picking up mail-back envelopes from convenient mailer distribution locations throughout Skagit County.
To find updated information on drop box locations, request mailers, and find mailer distribution locations go to MED-Project.
For more information about Skagit County’s Secure Medicine Return program, visit our webpage at https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/Health/medicinereturn.htm.
For questions, please contact Skagit County Public Health by calling (360) 416-1500.