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What are Sharps?

“Sharps,,” such as needles, syringes, and lancets, are medical devices used to puncture or cut the skin. Sharps Disposal Container These tools are used to manage a variety of health conditions, but if not disposed of properly, they can be a danger to people and pets. The Environmental Protection Agency estimate about 9 million Americans use sharps to manage their health conditions at home. This results in over 3 billion used sharps being thrown away each year.

Who uses Sharps?

Sharps are commonly used by healthcare facilities, such as hospitals and doctor’s offices, to give shots, insert IVs, and draw blood. They are also used at home, at work, and while traveling to manage health conditions such as allergies, blood clotting disorders, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, or other health conditions. Sharps are also used by livestock and pet owners.

How Sharps are Dangerous If Not Disposed of Properly

Used needles and other sharps are dangerous if not disposed of properly. If accidentally pricked by a used needle, a person can be at risk of injury or infection. The most common infections are:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

(Sources: U.S. Food & Drug Administration / FDA)

How to Dispose of Sharps Safely

Used needles and other sharps need to be put into a sharps disposal container immediately after using.  Sharps disposal containers are made of heavy-duty plastic with a puncture-proof lid. If a sharps disposal container is not available, use an empty red laundry soap container.


Where not to dispose of sharps

  1. Place needles and sharps into a sharps disposal container immediately after use.
  2. Dispose of the sharps disposal container when it is about three-quarters (3/4) full.
  3. Keep all needles, sharps, and disposal containers out of reach from children and pets.
  4. Keep needles and other sharps out of the trash and the recycling bin.
  5. Do not flush sharps down the toilet.
  6. Do not try to recap or remove needles.



For more information about where you can dispose of sharps containers, please visit our Sharps Disposal Locations page.

(Sources: U.S. Food & Drug Administration / FDA)

Additional Resources:

What to Do If You Find Used Needles or Sharps [HIV Alliance]

Safely Using Sharps (Needles and Syringes) at Home, at Work and on Travel [U.S. Food & Drug Administration]

Do’s and Dont’s of Safe Disposal of Needles and Other Sharps [ U.S. Food & Drug Administration]