Handle With Care – Household Medical Items

Stay safe and Recycle Right NY! This March, we are promoting the safe handling and management of household medical items. Needles, syringes, masks, gloves, and medication can be dangerous to people and the environment if improperly disposed of. Please keep these items out of your recycling bin. Explore the links below to learn how to manage them safely and responsibly to keep your community safe!

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Used masks and gloves belong in the trash, not your recycling bin or the environment. With the increased use of these items, improper disposal is contaminating recycling streams, putting recycling workers at risk, and creating litter in our communities. Learn how to make a homemade reusable mask from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Needles & Syringes (“Sharps”): Used needles, syringes, and lancets should never go in the recycling bin. Medical sharps, whether loose or stored in a plastic container, that are placed in recycling bins injure local recycling facility employees by pricking them and spreading bloodborne illnesses like HIV and Hepatitis C. To learn about safe disposal of these items, visit the NYS Sharps Collection Program web page and find free collection sites at nearby hospitals, nursing homes, and other locations.

Unused Medications: Never put unused medications in the recycling bin or down the drain. Doing so contaminates other recyclable materials and pollutes local waterways. Putting medications in the trash is a last resort and all of the proper steps should be followed. To learn how to responsibly dispose of unused medications, visit the Safe Medication Disposal for Households web page, and find medication drop-box locations near you by exploring this online locator map.

Medicine Bottles: Some local recycling programs accept empty medicine bottles while many others do not. Be sure to “Know before you throw!” by checking with your municipality, hauler, or local pharmacy about recycling options. If they are accepted, remove or black out labels before recycling. If not, donate to an organization for reuse or reuse at home.

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