Community-based programs for safe disposal of used needles and syringes

Grace E. Macalino, Kristen W. Springer, Zeenat S. Rahman, David Vlahov, T. Stephen Jones

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Objectives: To review issues related to discarded syringes in the community and to describe community-based programs for the safe disposal of used needles and syringes. Methods: We used the medical literature and chain referral to identify community-based syringe disposal programs other than syringe exchange programs (SEPs). We held a workshop in June 1996 involving staff from disposal programs; manufacturers of syringes, sharps containers, and other disposal devices; solid waste companies; public health staff; and researchers. Results: Fifteen programs for the safe disposal of syringes were identified in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Of these, 12 primarily served persons with diabetes who use insulin, and 3 primarily served injection drug users (IDUs). The programs used three major strategies: puncture-resistant containers discarded in trash, community drop boxes, and sharps containers turned in for biohazard disposal at community sites, hospitals, or pharmacies. Participants in the workshop described key points in developing syringe disposal programs. Programs should involve pharmacists, physicians, waste disposal companies, public health departments, hospitals, diabetes educators, persons with diabetes who use insulin, and IDUs. For IDUs, criminal penalties for possession of syringes are a substantial deterrent to participation in community efforts to safely dispose of used syringes. The multiple and sometimes conflicting local, state, and federal laws and regulations concerning medical waste hinder development of multistate or national approaches to the safe disposal of syringes. More information is needed on community-based syringe disposal programs. Conclusion: Communities in the United States, Canada, and Australia have developed different approaches to achieve safe disposal of used syringes.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)S111-S119
    JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes and Human Retrovirology
    Issue numberSUPPL.
    StatePublished - Jul 1 1998



    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Intravenous drug use
    • Needle/syringe disposal
    • Needlestick injuries
    • Substance abuse

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Immunology and Allergy
    • Immunology
    • Virology

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