How To Dispose of Your Insulin Syringes Safely
Living with diabetes means a lot of pricked fingers and insulin injections. As necessary as they are, diabetic treatments and testing can mean a lot of used sharps. If you’ve been newly diagnosed, you may not be familiar with the term or how to dispose of this medical equipment safely.
To help you adjust, let’s go over what qualifies as a “sharp” and how you should dispose of it.
- The term “sharps” describes sharp-edged or pointed medical devices such as syringes, lancets, and needles.
- Some states allow for the disposal of sharps with household waste, but Massachusetts, California, and Washington do not.
- Many facilities can safely process medical waste, and some municipalities even offer pick-up services.
What Are “Sharps?”
As you may have guessed from the name, “sharps” is an umbrella term for medical equipment with a sharp edge or point:
- CGM applicators
- Infusion sets
All of the above are used to break the skin for one purpose or another and, therefore, contact blood. This may qualify them as hazardous waste depending on local or state law.
Can You Reuse Them?
The thought of reusing sharps can be appealing for several reasons. First, it’s more sustainable to reuse something, right? Second, individuals may be looking to save money, as purchasing fresh supplies regularly can get expensive. However, both manufacturers and physicians discourage using sharps more than once.
Dull Points Hurt More
Even though you’ve only used the needle or lancet once, the point is slightly dulled from going through your skin. As a result, the point won’t puncture your skin as well on subsequent uses. That, in turn, means a more painful experience. Additionally, the more you use a sharp, the duller it gets, which means each use will be more painful. It’s more comfortable and more efficient to just use a new sharp every time.
Needles May Not Be Properly Sanitized
When you have a fresh syringe or lancet, you know the tip is sanitary — you don’t have to worry about introducing pathogens into your body. If you want to reuse a sharp, however, you have to sanitize it manually. Unfortunately, there’s the risk that it won’t be fully sanitized, especially if you’re in a hurry. It’s better to completely eliminate the risk with a new device.
Can You Throw Them Away With Normal Trash?
The answer to this question depends on where you live. Some states, including Washington, Massachusetts, and California, prohibit needle disposal in household garbage bins. However, your city or county may have restrictive laws even if you don’t live in those states. To ensure legal compliance, you must look up disposal procedures as outlined by your local government.
Can You Recycle Them?
Under no circumstances can sharps be recycled. There’s too much risk of contamination because they’ve come into contact with blood, which can transmit infections.
How Should You Prepare Sharps for Disposal?
The most dangerous part of the sharp is the end; if you try to store or transport them as-is, there’s a risk of injury. To combat this issue, you can take steps to prepare your equipment for disposal. However, the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t attempt to use household items to render your needles or lancets harmless, as this may cause injury. Instead, you can invest in devices specifically designed to dismantle or store sharps safely.
A needle clipper is a handheld device that looks like a stapler. However, instead of stapling papers together, it clips the ends off your sharps and stores them. This allows two things. First, you can dispose of the rest of the sharp without worrying about someone getting hurt. Second, it will enable you to easily collect 1,500 needles in a small space until you’re ready to dispose of them.
You’re probably familiar with sharp collectors, though you may not know them as such. Sharp collectors are boxes specifically designed to store used sharps safely. They’re common in doctor’s offices and are usually red, white, or yellow, with signage designating them as hazardous waste containers. If you’ve ever gotten a vaccine at a clinic, you probably watched the physician dispose of the needle in a sharp collector.
Where Can You Dispose of Sharps Legally?
If you live in an area where you can’t dispose of sharps with household waste, you’ll need to find a designated center that can accept them. Fortunately, most municipalities have facilities specifically for this purpose. Some even offer separate pick-up services for this type of waste. A quick internet search is the easiest way to find what your municipality offers.
Pick-Up Services for Residential Special Waste
Some places offer scheduled or requested pick-up services for medical waste. There may be a fee involved, which you can inquire about when requesting the service. Often, these services will have requirements for the containers to ensure safe handling. Collection employees are also specially trained in hazardous waste safety, thereby reducing the risk of accidents and contamination.
If you choose to store your sharps in a sharp collector, you may be able to use a mail-back program. This allows you to send your used sharps to a collection site. The container must be appropriately labeled and meet specific requirements, such as FDA clearance, to qualify.
Collection Sites for Household Hazardous Waste
There’s a surprising amount of household waste that qualifies as hazardous:
- Motor oil
- Certain paints
- Household cleaners
To ensure these are processed without danger to the public or environment, these materials are sent to special facilities. Many of these places also accept sharps, which can be dropped off in sealed containers.
Why Is It Important To Safely Store and Dispose of Sharps?
You may be wondering why you should go through all this trouble, especially when you’ll be using so many injectors and lancets every day. The truth is, sharp safety is important for both your and others’ health. Being responsible with your used needles can prevent a serious accident or medical complication.
Limits the Spread of Disease
Blood can transmit disease depending on the pathogen, but bacteria from the skin are also a concern for used sharps. This is especially true of lancets, which come in contact with the hands. If a sharp has pathogens or bacteria on the tip and other people accidentally prick themselves, they could be exposed to illnesses.
When something is sharp, there’s a risk of injury. If sharps aren’t disposed of properly, that risk applies not only to you but to household members, pets, waste collection workers, and waste processing workers. Lancets and other medical-grade equipment are incredibly sharp to make the pricking and injection processes as easy as possible; just imagine how much damage they could do to someone who isn’t expecting something that sharp.
When you need reliable diabetic supplies, you can turn to MedEnvios Healthcare. We’re dedicated to making medical equipment accessible with our delivery system — with just a click, you can order the item you need and have it shipped right to your doorstep. Our friendly customer service representatives are always here if you have a question and even give follow-up calls to ensure you never run out of supplies. For more information or to look at our selection, visit our selection of diabetic supplies online.
- Photo credit: Syda Productions, Shutterstock