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Medical Sharps Disposal
Disposal of Medical Sharps (Needles, Lancets, etc.)medical_sharps.jpg

Each year, 8 million people across the country use more than 3 billion needles, syringes, and lancets—also called sharps—to manage medical conditions at home.

Sharps disposal by self-injectors is not typically regulated, and self-injectors do not always know the safest disposal methods.

This situation could lead to haphazard disposal habits and increased community exposure to sharps. People at the greatest risk of being stuck by used sharps include sanitation and sewage treatment workers, janitors and housekeepers, and children. Due to the hazards that unsafe disposal practices present, many states and municipalities are choosing to offer safe, convenient disposal options to sharps users (Source:

The City of Lakeland has confirmed that using an empty laundry detergent bottle, for example, is acceptable in Lakeland.

Please, never place loose needles/syringes or other sharps in the trash!

Visit for information and to take the pledge not to improperly dispose of medical sharps!

If you have used syringes with needles attached, they must go in a sharps container (Or, see below for "Legal, but Less Safe").

Ask your health care provider or local pharmacist about disposal containers for syringe users or if they know of safe disposal programs in the area.

Pharmaceutical suppliers may provide a free container since they supply the product.


Safe 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, which may include 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.

Check with your pharmacist or other health care provider for availability in your area.

Residential special waste pickup services:
Self-injectors can place their used sharps in a special container, similar to a recycling container, and put it outside their home for collection by trained special waste handlers. Some programs require customers to call for pickup, while others offer regular pickup schedules.

Mail-back programs:
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. Sharps users place their used sharps in special containers and return the container by mail to a collection site for proper disposal. This service usually requires a fee. Fees vary, depending on the size of the container. Check with your health care provider, pharmacist, yellow pages, or search the Internet using keywords "sharps mail back."

Syringe exchange programs:
Sharps users can exchange their used needles for new needles. Exchange programs are usually operated by community organizations, which properly dispose of the used needles collected at exchange sites. Sharps users can safely exchange used needles for new needles. Contact the North American Syringe Exchange Network at 253-272-4857 or online at

Home needle destruction devices:
A variety of products are available that clip, melt, or burn the needle and allow the sharps user to throw the syringe or plunger in the garbage. These devices can reduce or eliminate the danger of sharps entering the waste stream. Several manufacturers offer products that allow you to destroy used needles at home. These devices sever, burn, or melt the needle, rendering it safe for disposal. Check with your pharmacist or search the internet using keywords "sharps disposal devices." The prices of these devices vary according to product type and manufacturer.

Not applicable...Household hazardous waste collection site:
The facility on Haley Road has confirmed they will NOT accept this type of waste, whether in a biohazard container or bag.

Legal, but Less Safe

SND-homedisposalcontainer.jpgIn Tennessee it is currently legal to put used sharps in a household container such as a laundry detergent bottle, bleach bottle or other opaque sturdy plastic container with a screw-top lid. When that container is full, you should place it in your regular garbage cart, not the recycling cart.

However, this is highly discouraged because of the injury and health risks it places on garbage hauler and processing facility workers. It is best to use one of the options previously listed for safe management and disposal of used sharps.

Important notes:
Label container “Do Not Recycle.”
Put sharps in point-first.
Containers more than half-full should be disposed of.

Though this is still approved in Tennessee it is the least desirable way to dispose of used sharps. Please see above for other options you may try before disposing of your container in the household trash.

PLEASE NOTE:  If you have your sharps in a red sharps container, these containers are typically not permitted in the regular garbage because they are marked BIO HAZARDOUS MATERIAL. Bio hazardous material is not allowed in the household garbage. In this case it’s the actual container that is not permitted – not the sharps. 

The City of Lakeland has confirmed that using an empty laundry detergent bottle, for example, is acceptable in Lakeland.

For more information

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC),, provides state-by-state laws and regulations affecting the labeling, transportation, and disposal of used needles and other sharps in the community.

Your Community is Counting on Your Cooperation!

The information presented on this page is deemed accurate but not guaranteed and should be verified by residents based on their particular situation.

Questions? If you have any questions or concerns, please call 901-867-5409.

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