It is estimated that about 9 million Americans use sharps and syringes to manage their medical conditions at home, which adds up to about 3 billion injections outside of traditional healthcare facilities per year. Those who are unaware of safe needle disposal methods may be tossing loose needles in their trash cans or recycling bins, posing a serious risk of injury and infection to collection workers, neighbors, children, and pets.

Mid Michigan Waste Authority has launched Be Smart with Sharps, a new educational campaign aimed at preventing accidental needle stick injuries to sanitation workers, and anyone else who comes into contact with curbside refuse materials. Flyers have been distributed to local pharmacies, dialysis centers, and other healthcare clinics treating patients who may use needles at home.

“We are concerned about the health and wellbeing of our collection workers, but this really is a broader public safety issue,” said Mid Michigan Waste Authority Administrative Director Katharine Tessin. “Sharps can carry communicable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, and if they are loose in curbside trash or recycling, they are a danger to everyone who is passing by.”

The campaign builds on the work MMWA has been doing since 2014 to help educate residents about how to safely dispose of their sharps. When trash and recycling collection workers observe loose needles in curbside materials, the resident at that address is sent proper disposal guidelines, including the Be Smart with Sharps flyer.

While there are laws and regulations governing medical waste generated by health care facilities, there are no such regulations for the disposal of household-generated needles. The good news is, it’s not difficult for residents to safely prepare sharps for disposal in their curbside trash. It takes just a few simple steps to make the needle disposal process safe for everyone.

Proper containment includes using an empty rigid plastic receptacle, like a laundry detergent container, to hold used needles. Once the container is 2/3 full, it should be tightly closed and sealed with masking or duct tape. Clearly write “SHARPS” on the container in large letters, and discard along with trash, not recycling.

Residents with questions about disposing of sharps in their household trash should contact MMWA at (989) 781-9555 for more information.

Mid Michigan Waste Authority is a government entity providing comprehensive residential solid waste services to 70,000 households in 35 communities across the Saginaw Valley area. To learn more about MMWA, visit