How to Dispose of Insulin Needles

Young male reviewing sharps bin for disposal of needles
A young person disposes of a needle in a sharps container. (Image: Henfaes/iStock/Getty Images)

If you are a diabetic and you give yourself insulin injections, proper disposal of your needles and syringes is important to prevent injury to yourself or others. Insulin needles are made to be used only once, so depending on your blood sugar levels and recommendations from your doctor, you may go through several needles a day. If your doctor doesn’t advise you regarding how to dispose of your used needles, it's important for you to assume responsibility.

Step 1

Place all used needles into a container that is puncture-resistant. This can be an old plastic bottle or tin can with a lid. You may be able to purchase a sharps container from your pharmacy, a household hazardous waste center or a national mail-back service. Sharps containers are the best choice, but if you do not have access to one, any puncture-resistant container will work.

Step 2

Dispose of your used insulin needles in your chosen receptacle until it is no more than three-quarters full. If you continue to stuff needles in until the container is too full, you risk sticking yourself.

Step 3

Seal the container. If you're using a plastic bottle, place the lid on tightly, then tape around the lid using strong tape. The lids of metal coffee cans and other containers should be reinforced with duct tape to prevent the needles from poking through.

Step 4

Call your health department to find recommended drop-off sites for your full needle container. Your city may accept household hazardous waste at specific places. Your doctor’s office or a pharmacy might also dispose of the bottle for you.

Tip

Some companies offer mail-back services in which you are provided with proper sharps containers that you mail back for disposal once they're full. The service is not free. Ask your doctor for more information on these services.

Warning

Do not dispose of used needles in the trash or recycling bin, even if they are capped. The caps could come off the needles and cause a serious injury. Do not dispose of your full container in the trash or recycling bin, either. The needles are still accessible if someone tries to open the container.

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