Step-by-step overview for disposing needle/syringes into a sharps container.

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Generally, people who inject drugs dispose of their used injecting equipment safely and appropriately.

In Western Australia, people who inject drugs can safely dispose of used needles and syringes by:

  • returning to a needle and syringe exchange program (NSEP), currently operated in:
  • placing in a special needle and syringe disposal unit provided by some local governments or businesses

What to do if you find a needle or syringe in the community?

Used needles and syringes are occasionally found in parks and other public places, and this can be a concern for people in the community who find them.

If you find a discarded needle and syringe in the community, and none of the options above are possible, used needles and syringes may be disposed of in the domestic waste in a rigid-walled, puncture resistant plastic container with a screw-top lid.

The risk of catching HIV or other infections from an injury caused by a discarded needle is very low. However, it is important to follow certain steps when disposing of a needle and syringe:

  1. Do not be alarmed.
  2. Get a rigid-walled, puncture resistant, plastic container with a well-secured lid, preferably screw top. Avoid using glass which can shatter, aluminium that can be squashed or frosted plastic that may not be puncture-proof.
  3. Bring the container to the needle and syringe, and place on the ground next to the needle and syringe. Do not hold the container as you are putting the syringe in it.
  4. Pick up the used needle and syringe by the blunt end, away from the point. Do not touch the sharp point.
  5. Do not try to put the plastic protective cap back on a needle if it has been removed.
  6. Put the needle and syringe, point first into the container. More than one needle and syringe can be placed in the container, but do not overfill. Do not carry the needle and syringe unless it is in a suitable container.
  7. Make sure the container is tightly sealed.
  8. Put the sealed container in a domestic rubbish bin. Do not put needles and syringes down toilets, in recycling bins or post boxes.
  9. If you accidently prick yourself with the needle, find out how to treat discarded needle and syringe injuries.

Tell children never to pick up a needle, but to let an adult know if they find one. 

If you are representing a company or service that requires disposal of large quantities of needles and syringes, arranging for a waste disposal company to assist with collection and disposal would be recommended. See ‘waste disposal’ in the Yellow Pages (external site).

Dispose safely!

Do not dispose of loose needles and syringes directly into green waste collection bins, recycling bins, drains or toilets, or post boxes.

Download the safe needle disposal poster (PDF 876KB)

Where to get help

If you have queries about finding discarded needles and syringes in your area, please contact your local government environmental health officer (external site).


Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Needles and syringes in the workplace may be contaminated with human blood and body fluid or other infectious material. Exposure to these contaminants through the piercing of skin or contact with already broken skin may pose a health risk for transmission of certain infections.

Heads of academic/administrative units or controlled entities and supervisory staff have a particular responsibility for ensuring that all persons who use or may come in contact with needles and syringes are aware of their specific associated hazards and how to minimise the risk of exposure to those persons. This involves communicating local requirements to staff and students under their control and ensuring that appropriate training is provided. The designated Biosafety Officer can provide specific advice on local requirements.

The purpose of this information sheet is to provide guidance on the correct use and disposal of needles and syringes and action to be taken following a needlestick injury. This should be used as a starting point to assist with the implementation of appropriate risk control measures for the respective task(s).

Risk Management

Before you commence a task requiring the use of a syringe, ensure that a risk assessment and safe work instruction has been completed for the task/activity and the required control measures have been implemented. Consideration of the following points may assist in this process:

  • appropriate training in correct handling and disposal of needles and syringes must be provided and records kept
ActivityRecommended TrainingUndergraduate teaching involving the use of sterile needlesSupervised teaching
Safety information to be included in practical manualsCollecting syringes/needles found in the workplace
i.e. Cleaning & Security staffSharps information session (provided by Occupational Health Nurse Consultants)Animal work with non-infectious/infectious materialAnimal handling training (provided by Monash Animal Research Platform)Clinical placements with a potential for exposure to contaminated needlesPlacement induction
Supervision by qualified practitioners whilst performing taskResearch projects involving the taking of blood (phlebotomy)Accredited phlebotomy course
  • appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) specific to the designated task is readily available
  • a sharps container is in close proximity, enabling the immediate disposal of the connected syringe and needle
  • the sharps container is not full and there is sufficient space to accommodate the additional needles.

Correct disposal of syringes

  • Do not try to recap the needle.
  • Do not try to separate the needle and syringe before disposal.
  • Place the needle and syringe (still connected) into the sharps container.
  • Where syringe barrels are used without needles, place the used syringe, no matter its contents, into the sharps container.
  • Full sharps containers are to be sent for disposal without delay via an EPA licensed waste disposal contractor.

Finding syringes and needles while you are working

If you find a needle or syringe left lying around in your work area, then:

  • do not take any action until you have informed your supervisor
  • do not pick it up until you have appropriate PPE (e.g. leather gloves) and a sharps container for safe transport
  • do not carry the needle or syringe to another area
  • only transport the needle or syringe elsewhere once inside the sharps container.

If you find a needle or syringe in a public area, then:

  • do not pick it up
  • secure the area until it can be removed
  • contact Security on 333 and they will arrange for collection and disposal.

Needlestick injury management

  • Immediately wash the wound with soap and water and cover with an appropriate dressing.
  • Follow .
  • Report the incident to your supervisor and Biosafety Officer as soon as possible and ensure that Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) are notified without delay (990 51014).
  • Go to your doctor or nearest emergency department as soon as possible.
  • Provide the doctor with information about when the injury occurred, how deeply the skin was penetrated, whether or not the needle was visibly contaminated with blood, and any first aid measures used
  • If the needle and/or syringe contained human or animal blood or bodily fluids, discuss with the doctor the arrangements for blood tests, immunisation where appropriate and a follow-up plan.
  • If there is blood still in the syringe, and/or if the owner of the blood is known, advise your supervisor, Biosafety Officer, OH&S and your doctor.
  • Complete a hazard and incident report (pdf 39kb) as soon as you are able.
  • The First Aider should complete a first aid online report as soon as possible after the event.

For further information

For confidential medical advice, contact the Occupational Health Team

Advice on waste disposal can be obtained from your local Biosafety Officer, Safety Officer or the OH&S Consultant/Advisor for your area.

What steps must be followed to safely dispose a needle syringe into a sharps container?

Sharps containers may be disposed of by returning them to the Depot store where they are placed in a locked wheelie bin for appropriate disposal. Council provides a disposal service for residents with illness/disabilities that requires the regular use of needles.

What are 7 basic procedures for the safe handling of sharps?

Do not ask for a sharp item to be taken from you or to be disposed of by someone else. Do not walk unnecessary distances with a sharp in hand. Dispose of sharps in an appropriate sharps container; never in a waste bin or plastic bag. Dispose of sharps immediately after use – not later – to avoid needlestick injuries.

What is the proper method of disposal for the needle safety device?

Immediately after you use a sharp, engage any safety feature, and place it in a sharps disposal container that is closable, puncture-resistant, leakproof on the sides and bottom, and biohazard-labeled or color-coded.

Do you recap a needle before putting it in a sharps container?

OSHA policy is that recapping of needles, in general, is not appropriate. Used needles are to be placed in sharps disposal containers without recapping.