San Francisco residents have one of the best programs in the nation to safely dispose of their used syringes, needles and lancets: the Safe Needle Disposal Program administered by Recology San Francisco.
Used needles do not belong in the garbage where they can pose a health hazard to the public and garbage collectors. They should be put into puncture-resistant, leak-proof "Sharps Containers."
Residents with medical conditions requiring the use of hypodermic needles may pick up a free Sharps Container at any Walgreens pharmacy in San Francisco. When it is full, just return it to Walgreens for proper management. Needles in Sharps Containers are also accepted at the Household Hazardous Waste Facility. See the Household Hazardous Waste
page for hours, directions, and requirements.
The Safe Needle Disposal Program, (started in 1990 and was the first of it's kind in the nation), has been replicated in many other cities. It was designed by a coalition comprised of: Recology Sunset Scavenger, Recology Golden Gate, and Recology San Francisco, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the American Diabetes Association, and Walgreens, to protect garbage company workers and the public's health by providing residents with a safe and convenient disposal option for needles used at home.
Recology San Francisco administers the program, which is funded through garbage rates paid by the residents of the City of San Francisco. The company buys the sharps containers, delivers them to participating Walgreens, and arranges for a medical waste company to pick up the full containers. More than 1,500 containers are distributed to the residents of San Francisco each month.
After collection from Walgreens, the needles and other sharps are microwaved to sterilize them and then ground up and discarded at specially permitted landfills.
When garbage collectors observe needles in the trash, the customer is contacted and told about the Safe Needle Disposal Program.
"Our goal is that residents who use needles know about the hazards of improper disposal and the safe disposal options we provide." said Brad Drda, Environmental Manager at Recology San Francisco.
If you find needles on the street or in other public spaces, call the San Francisco Department of Public Works.
This program is not for medical offices or hospitals. Medical facilities must make arrangements to dispose of contaminated sharps with a commercial medical waste management service.
For more information, please call 330-1400.