Options for Safe Needle Disposal in Southern California

Beginning on September 1, 2008, California state law makes it illegal to dispose of sharps waste in the trash or recycling containers. The new regulations will require sharps waste to be stored in approved sharps containers and will require those sharps containers to be disposed of at an approved sharps collection point or hazardous waste site. A sharps consolidation point is an intermediary site, like a pharmacy or doctor's office, where sharps are collected and then transported to a hazardous waste site.

What Are Sharps?

Sharps include lancets, hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpel blades and broken glass articles (other than household items). According to state law, an approved sharps container is rigid, leak-proof, puncture resistant, sealed and clearly marked with the bio-hazard symbol.

Safe Disposal Options

Drop-off Collection Sites

Sharps users can take their filled sharps container to appropriate collection sites, which may include doctors' offices, hospitals, health clinics, pharmacies, health departments, community organizations, police and fire stations, and medical waste facilities. These programs often give self-injectors the option of continuing to use empty household containers to collect sharps, but prevent the sharps from entering the household waste stream.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Sites

Self-injectors can place their used sharps in a special sharps container or, in some cases, an approved household container, take them to municipal household hazardous waste collection sites, and place them in the sharps collection bins. These sites also commonly accept hazardous materials such as household cleaners, paints, and motor oil.

Residential Special Waste Pickup Services

Self-injectors can place their used sharps in a special container, similar to a recycling container, and put it outside their home for collection by trained special waste handlers. Some programs require customers to call for pickup, while others offer regular pickup schedules.

Mail-Back Programs

Used sharps are placed in special containers, which are mailed (in accordance with U.S. Postal Service requirements), to a collection site for proper disposal. Mail-back programs are available for individual use by sharps users, and can also serve as a disposal method for community collection sites. These programs work especially well for rural communities, communities that don't already have a medical waste pickup service (e.g., school systems, retail outlets, sporting arenas, casinos), and individuals who wish to protect their privacy.

Syringe Exchange Programs

Sharps users can exchange their used needles for new needles. Exchange programs are usually operated by community organizations, which properly dispose of the used needles collected at exchange sites.

For More Information

  • To set up a safe disposal program in your area, call 1-800-643-1643
  • Download (.pdf) the Needle Disposal in Southern California Guide and Disposal Points List in Southern California
  • Visit the Safe Community Needle Disposal website
  • Ask your healthcare provider or local pharmacist if they offer disposal, or if they know of safe disposal programs in the area