Needle (Sharps) Safety & Disposal

Needles and the Law

According to state law 105 CMR 480, it is illegal to dispose of sharps, as well as unopened packages of hypodermic needles and lancets, by throwing them away in the trash.

The City of Worcester Revised Ordinances Chapter 4 Section 6 prohibits all sharp objects, including syringes, from being placed in a yellow City of Worcester trash bag or recycle bins for disposal, as it may endanger the person picking up the bag. Violating the above ordinance can result in a $25 fine.

Cleaning Up Loose Sharps

Loose sharps can threaten the safety of public spaces. Knowing how to properly dispose of syringes and protect yourself is critical to keeping our community clean.

Handling loose sharps can be dangerous and should be approached with care and caution. Below are some important procedures to keep in mind:

  1. Assume Contamination
    Assume that all syringes are contaminated with HIV, Hepatitis B and C.
  2. Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    Wear puncture-resistant gloves, do not use your bare hands. Use long-handled pick-up tools, pliers and wear protective footwear as necessary.
  3. Have a Sharps Container Ready
    Open the lid and place the container on the ground BEFORE picking up the syringe. Place syringe in a puncture and leak proof container.
  4. Use Caution with Syringe Pick-Up
    Avoid using your hands (use pliers, picker tool, etc.). If you have to touch the syringe pick it up from the middle of the barrel.
  5. Infectious or Not?
    Sources of blood: wet blood, dried blood, used syringes, lancets, razors.
    Non-infectious: urine, vomit, spit, sweat.
  6. Disposal Procedures
    Used syringes CANNOT go into the trash. Sharps containers should be filled and stored until designated vendor pick-up.
  7. Return Equipment
    Return all equipment back to the kit for future use.
  8. Wash Your Hands!
    Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly even when not directly handling syringes.
  9. What to Do in the Case of a Needle-stick
    Wash with soap and water (NOT disinfectant as that will damage the skin). Seek immediate medical help/exam within 24 hours. DO NOT bring the syringe with you.

If you handle used needles or gear (tourniquet, cooker, cotton, water) you are at risk for getting HIV and hepatitis C. Even small amounts of blood can carry these viruses. Learn more about lowering your risk of getting HIV and hepatitis C.

HIV Outbreak: Protect Yourself and Others

Designated Sharps Containers

Designated Sharps Containers are the best places to dispose of sharps. They are marked with the universal biohazard warning symbol. Worcester and surrounding towns have designated containers at the following locations:

  • Worcester Senior Center, 128 Providence Street
  • Family Health Center, 26 Queen Street
  • AIDS Project Worcester, 165 Southbridge Street
  • Edward M. Kennedy Health, 19 Tacoma Street
  • Worcester Division of Public Health, 25 Meade Street

How to Store Used Needles

In order to be dropped off at a disposal site, needles must be placed in a sealed, rigid, puncture proof, leak proof container. No glass containers or plastic bags will be accepted.

Good examples of household containers you can reuse for needles disposal are: laundry detergent bottles, sealed coffee cans, etc. If the container lid does not screw on, please tape lid securely.

How to Report a Found Needle

If you find a loose needle, please report it! Here's how:

  • Call Worcester 311 at: 311. If it is outside of business hours, please leave a message.
  • Staff from the Department of Inspectional Services will then retrieve the reported needle.

Please do not place used needles in prescription drug kiosks. Used needles should ONLY go in designated needle containers marked with the universal biohazard warning symbol.

Contact Information

Public Health
25 Meade Street
Worcester, MA 01610

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Phone: 508-799-8531
Fax: 508-799-8572
Email Us Questions or Comments

To request a non-emergency service or report an issue, please contact Worcester 311.

In the event of a health emergency, please call 911.

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