Medical Waste and Sharps Disposal

Household “Sharps” (Needle) Disposal

Household sharps such as needles, lancets and syringes used for self-administration of insulin and similar medications must be disposed of properly to prevent public health risk. If not properly secured, discarded needles may expose your family, pets, and local sanitation workers to needle stick injuries and potential infection. You can prevent injury, illness, and pollution by following some simple steps when disposing of the sharp objects and contaminated materials you use in administering health care at home.

Plastic Container Disposal
In St. Mary’s County, residents may place used needles and syringes inside a sturdy, rigid plastic container (not soft plastic, such as a milk jug, which might be punctured) with a narrow opening; good examples would include laundry detergent containers or bleach bottles. Mark the container “Do Not Recycle”. When it is full, tape the container securely shut and place it in your household trash for regular disposal. Do not place a container holding sharps into your recycling bin, even though the container may be recyclable.

Sharps Disposal Companies
Sometimes medical supply companies or home health agencies will provide special disposal containers to use for sharps. When these special containers are full, they are returned by mail. You can check with the company that supplies your medical equipment about whether they have a “sharps mail back” program. Patients using sharps may also find assistance with disposal through their primary care physician and may want to ask their doctor’s office whether this service is offered.

Prescription Medication Disposal

Proper disposal of prescription medications protects our community in many ways. It prevents poisoning of children and pets, deters misuse by youth and adults, and avoids health problems from accidentally taking the wrong medicine, too much of the same medicine, or a medicine that is too old to work well. Proper disposal of medicines also protects our environment by keeping drugs from entering our water when poured down the drain or flushed down the toilet.

Prescription Drop-Off Program
Community members  can safely dispose of prescriptions through participation in the St. Mary’s County Drug Drop-Off Program. The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office has a prescription drug drop box available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It’s located in the front lobby of the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office in Leonardtown and is completely anonymous. Simply remove all identifying information on labels and place in one of the two drop boxes.

Other Home Medical Waste

Soiled bandages or disposable pads, used medical gloves, and other medical items that are not sharp should be placed securely fastened plastic trash bags before you put them in the garbage can.

*Note: It is important to note that this disposal information pertains only to household medical items. By law, businesses have different medical waste disposal criteria.

Additional Resources