If you take insulin, you probably know how to give yourself shots and check your blood glucose. But has anyone talked to you about safety with diabetes, as in how to get rid of your used needles? Maybe not. Yet, this information can keep you and your community safe.
Here’s what you need to know:
“Medical sharps” is a term that refers to all insulin syringes, lancets, insulin pen needles and insulin pump infusion set needles. Hospitals must follow strict rules about how they handle medical sharps. Since people are not always taught how to safely dispose of these items at home, they can create safety problems for their families, sanitation workers, janitors or anyone who carries garbage. There are ways to safely throw away medical sharps so that you, your family and all members of your community are kept safe.
THE RIGHT CONTAINERS
Throw away your medical sharps in a thick plastic container so the needles won’t stick through. The container should have a cap on it so it closes tightly. You can use a BD Home Sharps Container which is available at Walgreens. Just drop used medical sharps needle-first into the container.
Other options include:
- Liquid laundry detergent or bleach container
- Wet wipe canister
- Large plastic shampoo bottle
There also might be a medical sharps disposal program in your area. Ask your diabetes educator, health care provider or contact the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal at (800) 643-1643.
CHOICES TO HANDLE MEDICAL SHARPS:
Container mailback programs. The BD Home Sharps by Mail is approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency. This product includes the BD Home Sharps Container which holds up to 300 pen needles or lancets, or up to 100 insulin syringes. When full, the sharps container is closed and placed in a red bag. The red bag is put into a mailing box with prepaid postage and placed in any mailbox or post office. The post office requires a tracking form with a return address. The box is delivered to a waste treatment center and destroyed. The tracking form is scanned and a certificate is mailed back to you to confirm that your sharps were destroyed. The BD Home Sharps by Mail can be special ordered at Walgreens.
Drop box collection site. In some states you can take your sharps container to a hospital, health department or fire station.
Disposal in the trash. You can place your sharps container in your regular garbage. This is the riskiest of all of the choices because most containers put in the garbage shatter in the garbage truck and the sharps may end up hurting sanitation workers.
KEEP YOURSELF AND OTHERS SAFE
Avoid getting hurt by sharps. Don’t try to bend or break the needle off a syringe. The needle usually gets lost because it’s so tiny. Instead, just drop the used syringe and needle into your sharps container. Many people feel more comfortable with the needle broken off. If you do, you can buy the BD Safe-Clip which can be special ordered at Walgreens. This device clips the needle and stores it.
Don’t recycle. You cannot put your sharps container in a recycle bin even though plastic containers are part of the recycle trash.
Have a plan for when you are away from home. Even one capped syringe or lancet is a threat to safety. You can use an empty 35mm film canister for lancets or pen needles, use a pencil box for syringes, buy a compact sharps container or create your own.