Living with diabetes blog

Safe sharps disposal

By Peggy Moreland, R.N., C.D.E. August 11, 2016

The use of lancets, pen needles, syringes and infusion set/continuous glucose sensor introducer needles are often a part of life for many of you with diabetes.

Yesterday, an irate woman called in and said that her daughter, who works as a waitress, has found used pen needles and lancets left on the table and the sugar bowls. Once she poked herself with a used needle that had been wrapped up in a napkin. Understandably, her mother was upset and needed to vent.

The July 2014 edition of the Diabetes Forecast magazine reports that 7 billion sharps get thrown away in the U.S. While these items are necessary for good diabetes control, the sharps can be a hazard for people who handle the garbage as well as unsuspecting waitresses.

It is important that you check your local or county sanitation or waste management facility for specific instructions. You can find sharps disposal guidance for all 50 states online at

Here are the general guidelines for Minnesota:

Sharps disposal

  • Put sharps in point first.
  • Store sharps in a closed container with a screw-on lid.
  • Dispose of containers when they're half to three-quarters full.
  • Never put loose sharps in the garbage.
  • Never place containers with used needles or syringes in a recycling bin.

Storage at home

  • Purchase a sharps disposal container from a pharmacy, or use an empty laundry detergent bottle with a screw-on lid. (See note below.)
  • Do not store used sharps in glass bottles, aluminum cans, or coffee cans.
  • If you are bringing used sharps to a clinic or hospital collection site or using a mail-back program, follow their requirements, which may include use of a pre-purchased sharps container.
  • Always keep storage containers for used sharps out of the reach of children.

Clinics and hospital collection sites

  • Some clinics and hospitals have collection programs for needles, lancets and syringes used by their patients at home.
  • If your health care provider has a collection program, learn about and follow their instructions for sharps storage and disposal.
  • Do not bring used needles and syringes to your clinic or hospital if they are unable to accept them.

Legal but less safe

  • In Minnesota, it is currently legal to put used sharps that are in a laundry detergent bottle with a lid into the garbage. However, this is highly discouraged because of the injury and health risks it places on garbage hauler and processing facility workers.
  • Label container "Do Not Recycle: Household Sharps."

For more information contact:

  • Minnesota Department of Health
    Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division
  • 651-201-5000
  • Toll-free: 888-345-0823
  • TTY: 651-201-5797

No matter where you live, it's important to safely dispose of needles, lancets and syringes. Be sure to check your state or region's guidelines at

Be safe. Have a great week!


Aug. 11, 2016