Safe Disposal of Household Medical Waste

Improperly discarded household medical waste can cause injury and environmental damage. Household medical waste includes supplies that may be soiled with blood or other bodily fluids and medication that has expired or will not be used.

Populations at risk

  • People who give injections to themselves or others;
  • Healthcare workers;
  • Sanitation workers.

What you should do

Dispose of sharps (needles, syringes, lancets) safely

  • Put sharps into a sharps container immediately after use. (Syringes with attached needles should be disposed of with the needle still attached. Do not try to remove, bend, break, or recap the needle.)
  • If you do not have a sharps container, put items in a puncture-proof plastic container and tape the lid closed. Do not use a glass container.
  • Store the waste container safely away from children.
  • Put the sealed container into the center of a full, preferably dark trash bag and throw it out with the regular trash. Never put any type of sharp container in a recycle bin.

Dispose of soiled or bloody items safely

  • Put items such as gauze, gloves, and bandages in a sealed, leak-proof plastic bag.
  • Put bags in the regular trash.
  • Use trash barrels with tight lids to avoid attracting animals.

Dispose of medications safely

  • Remove all expired, unused, or unwanted medications from your home. Dispose of all unused medications at anonymous drug disposal sites.
  • If you cannot get to a drug disposal site, dispose of medications at home:
    • Take the medicine out of its original container and mix with cat litter or used coffee grounds.
    • Put into a disposable container with a lid or into a sealable plastic bag.
    • Conceal or remove any personal information (including prescription label) on the empty medicine bottles and containers.
    • Put the sealed container or bag and the empty medicine bottles in the regular trash.
  • Most drugs should not be flushed because of harm to the environment, however, Food and Drug Administration recommends flushing certain prescription pain medications. These drugs should be immediately flushed when they are no longer needed to prevent accidental ingestion.
  • If you are not sure whether or not to flush, read the label on the medication.