Being a diabetic I have to be responsible with my used syringes. I do five injections a day of NovoLog and Lantus so at the end of the week I have about 35 syringes. I had been using a mail-in red biohazard container but it was always a lot of paperwork to get them sent back to the company handling the disposal of the syringes. If you are a diabetic or giving shots to a family member or pet, it is your responsibility to dispose of the used syringes properly.
Sadly, there are people who scout or cruise needle disposal facilities. In my area there are three sites that accept used syringes; they have limited drop off hours and when their receptacles are full they turn you away. The needle scouts wait for these places to start turning away and then offer to buy the used syringes from you. They will ask you what you used the needles for; if you tell them you are a diabetic they will offer you a base price for your entire container. While this is not illegal it is something that is strongly not recommended. Your finger prints are all over the syringes and while making an easy hundred dollars from selling your used needles might not seem like a big deal, the repercussion from it could me massive. As soon as I tell them the syringes are clipped they end the conversation; clipping the metal needle section off of the syringe will also prevent garbage scouts from hitting your weekly trash bags looking for used syringes.
Mailing them in to a processing center can get costly but there are ways to dispose of them at home. You are going to want to check your local laws as some communities will provide you with special biohazard containers for monthly pick up.
If you are going to do a home disposal there are a couple of things that you are going to need:
Thick Plastic Bottle: A laundry detergent bottle works perfectly but you can use anything that is thicker than a plastic two liter bottle will work. You are going to want to tape or glue the lid in to place when it is full. You can get about two hundred syringes in to a regular size laundry detergent bottle; that means you are only going to be throwing out a bottle every six to eight weeks depending on how many syringes you are using per day.
Syringe Snipper: This is a nifty little device that removes the needle portion of a syringe and keeps the clipped piece inside the chamber. The clipper chamber can hold about 300 to 500 syringe needles (industrial ones can hold more); once they are clipped and into the chamber they can not be removed. I wouldn’t leave the clipper in the reach of children even though the clipped pieces can not be removed. When the chamber is full you can add it to metal recyclables.
Permanent Marker: You are going to need this to write on the bottle that it contains used, snipped syringes. You don’t need to write a lot on the bottle, just label it with the words “Used Syringes. Clipped” as well as the words “Do Not Recycle”. This will prevent it from accidentally being added to plastics for recycling if such items are not permitted in your area.
The sealed bottles can be put in with your regular trash or plastic recyclables if your city or township accepts them with plastics (this does not mean that they will be recycled, melted down or destroyed, it means that they will be handed off to a company that handles such waste). This is a city by city ordinance so you are going to want to check to see if they can dispose of them with regular trash or with your recyclables. As long as the syringes are clipped I can add them to either but I prefer to add them to the regular trash. The plunger covers and needle covers can be added to your recyclables; if you are snipping the needles off of the syringe then there is no need to keep the orange needle cover on the syringe.
Several recycling companies have been experimenting with recycling the plunger and barrel of the used syringes. Essentially they are grinding up the pieces and using them in cement mixes. This is a great way to “get rid” of the plastic parts without having to wait years for them to break down in a landfill. It will be at least five years before anything ‘solid’ is in place for completely recycling syringes to be used with post consumer products but it will be an excellent way to deal with the estimated 7.8 billion syringes that are disposed of each year. That number is based on individual syringe use and does not include hospitals, clinics or health care facilities.
“Americans Discard 7.8 Billion Needles Every Year”