Disposal of Sharps by Health Care Facilities
The information on this page is intended for use by consumers, including patients, family members, and home health caregivers to address disposal of used needles and other sharps used at home, at work, and when traveling. This page is not for health care facilities.
For information on sharps disposal at health care facilities or disposal of regulated medical waste by health care personnel outside of health care facilities, see Sharps Disposal Containers in Health Care Facilities.
FDA-Cleared Sharps Containers
The FDA recommends that used needles and other sharps be immediately placed in FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers. FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers are generally available through pharmacies, medical supply companies, health care providers, and online.
The FDA has evaluated the safety and effectiveness of these containers and has cleared them for use by health care professionals and the public to help reduce the risk of injury and infections from sharps.
FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers are made from rigid plastic and come marked with a line that indicates when the container should be considered full, which means it’s time to dispose of the container. Below are examples of FDA-cleared sharps containers:
FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers are available in a variety of sizes, including smaller travel sizes to use while away from home.
A list of products and companies with FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers can be found here. Although the products on this list have received FDA clearance, all products may not be currently available on the market.
Alternative Sharps Disposal Containers
If an FDA-cleared container is not available, some organizations and community guidelines recommend using a heavy-duty plastic household container as an alternative. The container should be leak-resistant, remain upright during use and have a tight fitting, puncture-resistant lid, such as a plastic laundry detergent container.
Household containers should also have the basic features of a good sharps disposal container described below.
All sharps disposal containers should be:
- made of a heavy-duty plastic;
- able to close with a tight-fitting, puncture-resistant lid, without sharps being able to come out;
- upright and stable during use;
- leak-resistant; and
- properly labeled to warn of hazardous waste inside the container.
When your sharps disposal container is about three-quarters (3/4) full, follow your community guidelines for proper disposal methods.