Dear Christopher Cat: I recently started giving my cat insulin injections for diabetes. How do I dispose of the used insulin syringes? May I recap them and put them in the trash?
Christopher Responds: No. Always dispose of needles and insulin syringes in a “sharps” container to protect people and animals from getting hurt.
If you use a lancet to prick your cat’s skin to test blood sugar levels, you also need to put the used lancet in the sharps container. Other sharps include retractable needles and auto-injectors, such as epinephrine pens.
You should never throw sharps loosely into the trash or toilet, nor should you put a sharps container into a recycling bin.
It’s best to use an FDA-approved sharps container, a thick plastic receptacle available online and at pharmacies and medical supply stores. In some states, sharps containers must be red.
An alternative that is legal in many states is to dispose of needles in a heavy, opaque plastic container such as an empty bleach or laundry detergent bottle. Tighten the cap, seal it with duct tape, and print SHARPS: DO NOT RECYCLE on the container.
The next step depends on your state or county. See safeneedledisposal.org for your locale’s regulations.
In some states, you may put sealed sharps containers in the trash. Other communities accept them at sharps drop-off sites and household hazardous waste collection sites. Some pharmaceutical companies have mail-back programs. Your animal hospital may even dispose of your sharps container for a small fee.