What to Do if You Can't Find a Sharps Disposal Container
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.
The safest way to dispose of a used needle is to immediately place it in a sharps disposal container to reduce the risk of needle sticks, cuts and punctures from loose sharps. If you cannot find a sharps disposal container right away, you may need to recap the needle or use a needle clipper until you have an opportunity to dispose of sharps in an appropriate sharps disposal container. Never throw away loose needles and other sharps in trash cans or recycling bins, and never flush them down the toilet.
If you need to put the cap back on the needle (recap), do not bend or break the needle and never remove a hypodermic needle from the syringe by hand. This may result in accidental needle sticks, cuts or punctures. Recapping should be performed using a mechanical device or the one-handed technique (see below for step-by-step instructions). Recapped needles should be placed in a disposal container at the next available opportunity.
The One-Handed Needle Recapping Method
Step 1: Place the cap on a flat surface like the table or counter with something firm to "push" the needle cap against
Step 2: Holding the syringe with the needle attached in one hand, slip the needle into the cap without using the other hand
Step 3: Push the capped needle against a firm object to “seat” the cap onto the needle firmly using only one hand.
Needle clippers make syringes unusable by clipping off the needle. Clippers may be used for needle disposal of small syringes (such as insulin syringes), but not for clipping lancets.
After the needle clipper clips off the needle from the syringe, the needle is automatically and safely retained within the clipper.
Do not attempt to clip a needle with any tool except a needle clipper designed to safely clip a needle.
Before using any of the above procedures, check your community guidelines for acceptable sharps disposal methods.