Needles and Sharps Disposal

Used needles, syringes, or other sharps pose a danger because they can potentially spread diseases like hepatitis or HIV. Store and dispose of them properly to prevent disease and injury.

  • Do not put used sharps in recycling.
  • Used sharps from a business must either be sent to a permitted biomedical waste disposal company or treated to standards set in Whatcom County Code before disposal.
  • We provide needle clean-up kits for businesses or community groups who want to clean up and safely dispose of used needles found on private or public property. Find out how to get and use these free kits.
  • You can get rid of used sharps from personal, household use in your regular garbage if they are properly packaged. Learn how to package them for safe disposal.

How to Get Rid of Your Sharps Safely

Household sharps, sometimes called "residential sharps," are sharps for personal or household use, such as:

  • Hypodermic needles.
  • Lancets that are generated through self-treatment.
  • Scalpel blades.
  • Syringes with needles attached.

In Whatcom County, you can dispose of household sharps in one of three ways.

  • In the household garbage. Package and label sharps using the instructions below, and then place them in your household trash.

    1. Place used sharps in a puncture-proof container, like a designated sharps container or any hard plastic container with a lid, such as a detergent bottle. 
    2. Clearly label the container "Sharps: Biohazard." You can also print these labels and attach them to container.
    3. When the container is full, close it with a cap or lid. Seal it with tape. Do not pour bleach in the container.
    4. Put the full container in your household garbage. Do not place sharps containers in the recycling.
  • Through a mail-away sharps disposal program. You can purchase a sharps container from a biomedical waste disposal company, such as Sharps Assure. Mail it back to them for proper disposal once it’s full.

Sharps Disposal for Businesses

Businesses that generate used sharps must send them to an approved biomedical waste facility or treat them by one of the approved methods described in Whatcom County Code (WCC 24.06) before disposal through local waste streams.

Needle Clean-up Kits

We provide free clean-up kits for businesses and community members who want to clean up and safely dispose of used needles or syringes found on private or public property. The kits contain safety equipment and instructions about how to safely handle needles. They can be picked up from the Whatcom County Health and Community Services Communicable Disease Division at 509 Girard Street, Bellingham during normal business hours, while supplies last.

Each kit contains a sharps disposal container, puncture-resistant gloves, safety glasses, tongs, and simple instructions for safe collection. Full sharps containers can be returned to Whatcom County Health and Community Services for proper disposal.

Safety Precautions

When cleaning up needles, take the following precautions:

  • Be sure to contact property owners before cleaning up debris on private property.
  • Do not allow children to handle needles. If children are participating in clean-up efforts, be sure to have an adult handle the actual needle collection.
  • If you have any safety concerns, contact Whatcom County Health and Community Services Environmental Health Division (360-778-6000) or your local law enforcement agency.