How to Safely Dispose of Your Sharps

Traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics are life-changing for many people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). While other drugs relieve arthritis-realted pain from damaged joints, these medicines prevent further joint damage.1,2

A plan for safe needle disposal

Some biologics need to be injected, not swallowed. This is so the medicine is not digested before it gets a chance to work.3 Some traditional DMARDs, like methotrexate, can also be injected. It is not clear yet why injecting certain DMARDs is more effective, but it is.4

Many people are hesitant to get regular injections of traditional DMARDs or biologics. They may be scared of needles, or they do not have time to go to the doctor every week.5 But you can take certain biologics and traditional DMARDs comfortably and safely at home. You just need your own syringes or auto-injectors. You will also need a plan to safely dispose of your needles after you have taken your medicine.6

5 ways to safely dispose of sharps

Used needles, lancets, syringes, and auto-injectors (sharps) must be disposed of carefully. You want to protect others from accidental jabs from used sharps. These accidents can transmit many diseases. Some of these diseases can lead to permanent disability or even become life-threatening.7 So, what can you do to safely dispose of your sharps?

Sharps disposal at your healthcare provider

Your doctor’s office, pharmacy, or hospital may take containers filled with used sharps. When you are prescribed any medicine to inject at home, ask your doctor or pharmacist. They may tell you to bring used needles back to them or to a colleague.8

Mail-back programs

You may be able to mail your sharps to a disposal service. For a fee, mail-back services can mail you a sharps container approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You can then put your sharps in the container and mail it back.9

Some drug companies that make traditional DMARDs and biologics for RA offer their own mail-back programs for sharps at a reduced fee. Sometimes, mailing your sharps to the company that made your medicine is free.10

Household hazardous waste collection sites

Your local government may run a household hazardous waste collection site. These sites accept dangerous cleaners and paints, motor oil, and other things that are dangerous to throw in the trash. They also accept your used sharps (in approved containers).11

Other drop-off or supervised collection sites

Some police and fire stations, health departments, and community groups also offer safe medicine disposal.11 You can find out more by calling your local health department or by searching on SafeNeedleDisposal.org.12

At-home disposal

If you do not have any other way to get rid of used sharps, you can follow these steps:13

  1. Find a heavy-duty plastic container with a lid. A laundry detergent jug or bleach bottle is strong enough. Clear plastic containers, soda cans, and milk containers are not. Do not use a glass container.
  2. Put sharps in the container needle-first.
  3. When the container is about three-quarters full with sharps, screw on the lid. Cover the lid with duct tape.
  4. Label the container “Sharps – Do Not Recycle.”
  5. You may be able to put this container out with your trash, or you may have to take it to a safe disposal site. Go to SafeNeedleDisposal.org to find out whether your state or city requires you to follow other steps to dispose of sharps and/or medical waste.

You can also buy a machine that destroys sharps at home. Search for “needle-melting device” to learn more.14

Important things to remember

For your safety and the safety of others:6-8,13

  • You must use a strong plastic container with a lid to dispose of your sharps. Other types of containers are not safe.
  • Make sure the lid is on tight and duct-taped in place. If it is not, the sharps may escape your container.
  • Never overfill the sharps container. This may cause some to spill out or puncture the container.
  • Never put your hand in the sharps container.
  • Never leave sharps loose in the same bag as your other trash. This can spread serious illness to the people who handle your household waste.
  • Be careful to never take out a sharps container with your recycling. This can lead to an accidental needle stick at the recycling plant.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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