• The MIT Pharmacy carries one type of sharps container, which holds about 100 lancets.

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New law on sharps disposal goes in effect July 1

On July 1, a Massachusetts law goes into effect banning the disposal of medical sharps in household waste. Home sharps containers are available for purchase from the MIT Pharmacy.


On July 1, a Massachusetts law goes into effect banning the disposal of medical sharps in household waste. This means it will be illegal to throw needles, syringes or lancets in the regular trash. Instead you will be required to take any sharps to a special facility for disposal.

To dispose of medical sharps, first place them in a sealable, puncture-resistant container. You can purchase a home sharps container from the MIT Pharmacy for about $3, says chief pharmacist Georgene Bloomfield, M.S., R.Ph. According to Bloomfield, MIT Pharmacy carries only one type of sharps container, which holds about 100 lancets. However, containers in various sizes and price ranges are available at local pharmacies. Alternatively, you can use a plastic container, such as a liquid-detergent bottle or milk jug, sealed with tape, to transport used sharps. Disposal sites will not accept loose needles or sharps in bags or glass containers.

MIT Medical does not accept medical sharps for disposal. "We're just not set up for it," Bloomfield says. The closest drop-off location to MIT is the kiosk in the lobby of the Cambridge Public Health Department offices, located on the ground floor of 119 Windsor St. in Cambridge (map). The facility is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no charge for the drop-off service. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) maintains a list of other drop-off locations around the state, and MIT Pharmacy has handouts available that list statewide locations. Contact individual disposal facilities for their hours of operation and any disposal restrictions.

Alternatively, there are sharps mail-back services. Generally these involve purchasing a pre-paid carton, which, when full, is mailed to the company for disposal (see below for contact information).

After the Environmental Protection Agency issued a recommendation in 2005 that home-generated sharps be disposed of more safely, several states enacted similar bans to the state-wide Massachusetts ban going into effect in July. Some Massachusetts communities already have similar bans in effect.

The MDPH has recommended several mail-back services available to Massachusetts residents. The names and phone numbers for these companies are given below:


Topics: Community, Government, Health, MIT Medical, Policy

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