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NEWS // August 5, 2015

"Stuck" on Safety

It is estimated that more than 3% of the public self-injects medications to treat a wide variety of conditions such as diabetes, cancer, migraines, and allergic reactions. Millions of used needles or "sharps" are generated every year in our County. Since 2008 it has been illegal in California to dispose of syringes in the trash. The County of San Diego along with other jurisdictions and some businesses have been doing their part to collect home generated sharps to help enhance the safety of our communities. The County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health (DEH) currently has eleven sharps disposal kiosks located at outlying Sheriff’s Stations (and two fire stations) in the unincorporated communities of our county to help prevent public health risks created by the improper disposal of used sharps. These kiosks are located outside of the stations and are generally available to the public 24-hours a day. They provide a safe, convenient and free option for residents of the unincorporated areas. Last fiscal year alone, DEH collected approximately 2,900 pounds of sharps in the kiosks.

Other locations to dispose of used sharps include the area’s several Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection facilities (located in Ramona, Poway, Vista, La Mesa, San Diego, Escondido, El Cajon, Chula Vista, and Coronado), several City of San Diego police stations, and many EDCO and Waste Management trash transfer stations (for their customers). The transfer stations provide a large bin for residents to place their sharps containers in for safe disposal.  In addition, mail-back disposal programs are available that allow home sharps users to mail used sharps to licensed disposal facilities. Such programs charge a fee for this service. Check with your health care provider or pharmacist, or search the yellow pages or Internet to find a mail back program convenient for you. If you are a health care provider, and you are interested in taking back used sharps from your patients, the process is easy, free of charge and no additional permit is required. A fact sheet regarding home generated sharps and information on becoming a sharps consolidation point is available on DEH’s website.

Before you bring your used sharps to one of the locations outlined above, please be sure that they are placed in a rigid, puncture-resistant and leak proof container. Appropriate containers include the common red sharps container, but you can also use a small to medium sized (1/2 gallon or less) rigid, puncture resistant container such as a metal coffee can, small laundry detergent bottle, etc. When your container is full, please use tape to secure the lid or cap to prevent accidental loss of its content. The County of San Diego DEH has a limited number of sharps containers available at the Sheriff’s stations or our office in Kearny Mesa to be distributed to unincorporated residents.

Remember: Never put your used sharps in the trash or recycling bin, don’t flush them and don’t leave needles or syringes on streets, in parks, or anywhere else where they could injure someone.

  • Use one of the available sharps disposal locations to get rid of your sharps
  • Always keep storage containers for used sharps out of the reach of children
  • Never place containers with used needles or syringes in a recycling bin or trash can
  • Never place loose sharps or sharps in baggies in the collection kiosks and especially not in the trash
  • Use small sized rigid containers (1/2 gallon or less)

Please do not put medication in the sharps kiosks. Each Sheriff’s station has a dedicated kiosk located inside the station for the disposal of medication.

Do your part and help the County of San Diego and other jurisdictions prevent public health risks created by improper disposal of used sharps. Put them in proper containers and bring them to one of the many disposal locations available. Don’t let anyone get stuck!