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How to handle used or found sharps

Learn how, and where, to safely and legally dispose of syringes, needles, and lancets (sharps).

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How to safely handle, collect, and store sharps

Disposal of syringes, needles, and lancets is regulated. These items are called "sharps", and they can carry hepatitis, HIV, and other germs that cause disease. Regulations governing disposal of sharps protect garbage workers and the general public from needle sticks and illness.

  • Do not flush sharps down the toilet or toss them in the trash, because this can pose health risks for others.
  • After using sharps, immediately put them in a sharps container with the needle pointing down. Do not recap needles and do not overfill sharps containers.

How to pick up sharps that are not yours

  • Equipment

    Gather the equipment you will need to safely pick-up and dispose of the sharps, including:

    • A tool to pick-up the sharps, such as tongs, plyers, or a broom and dustpan.
    • Gloves (preferably puncture resistant).
    • A durable, single-use, and puncture resistant container with a lid. The container can be a manufactured sharps container or a thick plastic bottle (see examples below).
  • Pick up

    Do not pick up used syringes with your hands.

    If you find a syringe or needle, do not pick it up with your hands, even when wearing gloves. In addition to wearing thick gloves, use a tool such as tongs or pliers that puts adequate distance between your physical self and the needle so that there is no way the needle can prick you.

  • Disposal

    • Always place used sharps and syringes in a safe container with the needle pointing down.
    • To minimize accidental punctures do not recap needles.  Place used uncapped needles and syringes directly into a safe container (see examples below).
    • Do not bend or break the needle off from the syringe. If the needle gets broken off from the syringe, wear thick gloves, use a tool such as tongs or pliers to pick up the needle, and put it directly into a safe container (see examples below).
    • After the sharps are in a safe container:
  • Sharps containers are available for purchase through pharmacies or health care providers.  When picking up your sharps container, find out if the pharmacy or health care facility offers disposal options for the full containers.
  • Refer to the following sections for personal disposal options:

Alternative Container Options

  • A durable, single-use, and puncture resistant container with a lid. Ensure that the top is puncture resistant, secured tightly, and will not leak.
  • The container should not be larger than 2 liters.
  • Label the container: "SHARPS, DO NOT RECYCLE"
  • Do not put the bottle in your recycling bin.
  • Refer to the section on drop box locations to see where you can take your alternative container.

Sharps found on public and private property

Sharps found on private property are the property owners' responsibility. Please follow the safe handling and disposal guidelines above to dispose of sharps found on your property.

City of Seattle:

Unincorporated King County (outside of city limits):

In King County (outside the city limits of Seattle):

  • If you find sharps on private property that the property owner has not cleaned up, call the Illegal Dumping Hotline at 206-296-7483.
  • If you find sharps on public property:
    • See list of city and town websites
      • Click on the appropriate link, then search on their page for "Code Compliance" (called 'Code Enforcement' in some cities) and submit a complaint through the city.