Home Medical Waste

Medical Sharps

Medical "sharps" include hypodermic needles, syringes, and lancets. They are typically used in the home to treat people and animals with diabetes and other chronic diseases such as allergies, arthritis, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis B, and HIV.

On July 1, 2012 a Massachusetts law went into effect banning the disposal of medical sharps in household waste. It is now illegal to dispose of needles, syringes, or lancets in the regular trash. Instead you are required to take any sharps to a special facility for disposal, such as the kiosk at the RTS.

Safe Storage of Used Sharps

  • Clearly label used sharps storage containers.
  • It is preferable to purchase a sharps disposal container from a pharmacy or ask your specialty pharmacy to provide you with a sharps container. (These are typically readily available if you receive your medication through the mail.)
  • If using an empty product container to store used sharps, label clearly and only use rigid plastic, such as laundry detergent. Seal securely when ready for disposal.
  • Do not store used sharps in glass bottles, soda bottles, milk jugs, aluminum cans, or coffee cans.
  • Never place containers with used needles or syringes in recycling. (You'd be surprised how often this happens.)
  • Never place sharps in the garbage.
  • Follow the requirements of the collection program where you are taking your sharps, which may include use of a pre-purchased sharps container.
  • Always keep storage containers for used sharps out of the reach of children.

Safe Disposal of Sharps

There are a variety of ways to safely dispose of used sharps:

  • At the RTS - Needham provides residents with a safe disposal opportunity daily at the RTS. Sharps in secure containers may be safely disposed of in the sharps kiosk located in the North Area of the RTS (PDF).
  • At Other Locations - Check with your healthcare provider or veterinarian to find out if they provide safe disposal options for used sharps.
  • Mail-Back Disposal Programs - Mail-back disposal programs allow home sharps users to mail used sharps to licensed disposal facilities as a safe disposal option. Such programs charge a fee for this service. Check with your health care provider or pharmacist, or search the yellow pages or Internet using key words "sharps mail-back."
  • Needle Destruction Devices - There are a number of needle destruction devices that cut off or incinerate the needle, allowing for more compact storage of used needles. Talk with your healthcare provider or look online for more information. Needles from these devices must still be disposed of though a sharps collection program.

Additional Information

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA-DEP) provides guidance about safe syringe disposal.

SafeNeedleDisposal.org provides a wealth of information on proper storage and disposal of sharps.

Contact the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection at 617-292-5500 or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at 617-624-6000.

Unwanted Medications

  • Unwanted medications may be safely disposed of in Needham's yellow trash bags.1
  • Do not dispose of unwanted medication down a drain or toilet.2
  • Unwanted prescription drugs may be taken to Needham's police department 24/7 for safe disposal.
  • A drug take-back program is offered in the spring and fall sponsored by the Needham Police Department and the Public Health Department's Needham Coalition for Youth Substance Abuse. Contact the Police Department or Public Health Department for dates and details.

1 Needham's trash is taken to the Wheelebrator waste-to-energy facility in Millbury, MA where it is burned. For this reason medications in the trash do not pose a threat to the environment. In communities where trash goes to a landfill, unwanted medications disposed of in the trash may pose a threat to the environment via the leachate generated by the landfill.

2 Many medications are not filtered out in the waste water treatment process and remain in discharged water where they impact fish, plants, and other wildlife that may come in contact with it. To prevent this, unwanted medications should never be disposed of down a drain or toilet.