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Other Medical Waste Disposal Options

A few communities provide a program for the collection of household medical wastes like medications or used needles in order to minimize the amount sent to local landfills. In areas where such options aren't available, household medical wastes can be stabilized (treated in some way) to make them safer for landfill disposal.

 

To prevent accidental exposure, soiled bandages, wound dressings, garments and linens should be placed in securely fastened plastic trash bags. Larger items should be sealed in sheet plastic with strong tape. Make sure the outside of the bag or plastic wrap is free of visible contamination before being put in the trash. Trash containing these potentially infectious wastes should be stored away from pets and children until it can be picked up for disposal or taken to the landfill.

DO NOT flush medications down the toilet or drain. Flushing even small quantities of household medications down the drain can contaminate drinking water supplies.

 

  1. Take the medications out of their original containers. Try to make them as unappealing as possible by crushing any pills and mixing the medications with undesirable substances such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. 

  2. Put the mixture in a container with a tightly fitting lid or in a plastic ziptop bag or other tightly sealed plastic bag. Transdermal patches should be folded onto themselves so they cannot be reused before being placed in the sealable container.

  3. Remove or destroy all identifying personal information on the empty medicine container labels, including prescription and medical plan numbers. You can destroy personal information by covering the information with a black permanent marker or by scratching it off.

  4. Wrap the medication mixture and empty containers in newspaper to help conceal them, wrap them in a trash bag and place the packaged waste in the trash.

  5. Be sure to keep children and pets away from the trash before it is picked up and hauled away.

  

Never put a container of sharps in with your recyclables.  SHARPS ARE NOT RECYCLABLE and not only can they pose an infection risk to workers at the recycling facility, they can render the whole batch of recyclables unusable.

 

  • Used needles and other sharps should never be placed loosely in your trash or flushed down the toilet.  They should always be placed in a rigid container with a screw-on or other tightly secured lid.  You may purchase a commercially available sharps container from a pharmacy or other source. If this is not a viable option, you should use a rigid plastic laundry detergent or empty bleach bottle with a screw top lid or coffee can where the lid can be taped on with duct tape. These are strong enough to prevent the sharps from poking through the container.  Plastic milk bottles are a poor choice because they are generally made of thin plastic that can be easily punctured by a needle or lancet.  Glass should never be used as a sharps container because the glass can break and compound the hazard.  Containers of sharps should be clearly labeled as "Sharps" or "Biohazard Waste."  

  • Once filled, the container should be firmly sealed to prevent accidental tampering.  The sealed and labeled container can then be placed in your regular trash.  Trash that includes a sealed sharps container should be kept out of the reach of children and pets until it can be picked up by your trash disposal service or taken to the landfill. 

  • A variety of products are available that destroy sharps and make them safer for disposal in the trash.  Some of these melt the needle and syringe into a less harmful plastic "puck," and some destroy the needle or otherwise render it harmless.  Sharps destruction units have a higher initial cost, but may be more cost effective in the long run depending on how many sharps you generate.