Home-Generated Sharps Disposal
What are sharps?
Household generated sharps include needles, syringes, lancets, and auto-injectors that are used to manage medical conditions at home.
- What are the health risks of mishandled sharps?
It is important to dispose of sharps correctly to protect everyone who might come into contact with them. Used needles can transmit serious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis. Loose syringes thrown in the trash can be misused if they fall into the wrong hands or can injure small children, pets, and wildlife.
- What are New Jersey laws regarding medical waste?
Home generators of medical waste include any individual who produces waste as a result of medical care in the home (home self-care). Care may be self-administered or provided by a family member or other person not receiving money for their services. New Jersey law requires that residents and visitors destroy needles and syringes before discarding them (NJSA 2A: 170-25.17).
Medical waste produced by health care workers (physicians, nurses, home health aides, etc.) as a result of providing medical care in the home is not home-generated medical waste. It is Regulated Medical Waste (RMW), and must be disposed of by a licensed RMW generator in accordance with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) RMW regulations. The responsibility for the proper and safe disposal of regulated medical waste rests with the health care professional providing services in the home. RMW Regulations
- What are sharps used for?
People use sharps to treat all sorts of medical conditions at home and the number of conditions treated at home with injectable medicines continues to rise. Sharps users may use lancets and/or needles and syringes to deliver medicine for conditions, such as allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, and psoriasis.
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There are several recommended options for the safe disposal of sharps.
Drop Off Collection Sites
Most hospitals and some pharmacies have programs to accept home generated sharps. If not listed below, call your local hospital or pharmacy and ask if they have a sharps disposal program.
- Cape Regional Medical Center Safe Syringe Disposal Program: Cape Regional Medical Center offers rigid containers to dispose of home generated sharps. There is no fee for this program. Needles do not need to be clipped prior to placing them in the container. When the container is full, the hospital will exchange it for an empty container. Call 609-463-2491 for information.
- Shore Medical Center Safe Syringe Disposal Program: Shore Medical Center offers rigid containers to dispose of home generated sharps for a one-time $10 fee. Needles do not need to be clipped prior to placing them in the container. When the container is full, the hospital will exchange it for an empty container at no cost. Call 609-653-3612 for information.
- Volunteers in Medicine (VIM), Cape May Court House: VIM has a no cost sharps disposal program for their patients only. Ask about this program at your next visit.
Ask your physician or pharmacist if they can dispose of your used syringes if properly placed in a container. Pharmacies in Cape May County that have home generated sharps programs include:
- Reef Family Pharmacy, Cape May Court House. Program is for their customers. Call 609-465-0004 for information.
Mail-back disposal programs allow home sharps users to mail used sharps to licensed disposal facilities as a safe disposal option. Such programs charge a fee for this service. Check with your health care provider or pharmacist, or search the yellow pages or Internet using key words “sharps mail-back” for available programs. Some programs to consider include:
- BDSharps Disposal by Mail
- Stericycle Home Sharps Disposal Mailback Program
The above safe disposal options are preferred for your safety and for the safety of the public and environment. If the above safe disposal options are not feasible, however, unless prohibited by your municipality, New Jersey permits you to take precautions and dispose of your syringes in your regular trash. Your syringes must be placed in rigid containers that will protect people from needle sticks and use containers that are unlikely to break open on the way to the landfill. If your municipality isn’t listed below, call your municipal public works department and ask about their sharps disposal policy.
- Avalon: Allowable, following NJ regulations
- Dennis Township: Not allowable
If your municipality accepts home generated sharps, New Jersey requires that you take the following steps before disposal:
- Disposal: You may now dispose of the tightly sealed full container of syringes in your household garbage - not in your recycling bin.
- Label/Warning: Place a large label with a warning on the empty container (Example: Syringes - Do Not Recycle)
- Needle clipper to clip the needle: You can buy an inexpensive hand-held needle clipper from an online retailer or at some local pharmacies. Using anything other than a needle clipper to break a needle is not safe. After clipping the needle, carefully place each of your used needles and syringes into a plastic bottle with a screw-on lid. When possible, the individual receiving the medical treatment should clip the needle and syringe and place them in the container. In cases where this cannot be done due to the limitations of that individual, and a family caregiver or volunteer must perform this activity, it is recommended that the individual’s physician be consulted first.
- Rigid Container: You may use empty laundry detergent bottles or other puncture-resistant rigid containers with screw-on caps to dispose of needles and syringes. You can also check with your pharmacist and ask if commercial containers are sold for safe sharps disposal in household trash.
- Seal: Seal the bottle tightly with its original lid and wrap duct tape over the lid after you fill the bottle with syringes.
- Don't flush used needles down the toilet.
- Don't put needles in recycling containers.
- Don't throw loose needles in the trash.
Although placing household generated sharps in the regular trash is allowable in New Jersey, some municipalities prohibit this disposal method. Check with your municipal public works department to determine if this practice is acceptable in your community.
If your agency has a community program for home generated sharps disposal in Cape May County and you would like to include it on this webpage, send an email with information on the program.