How to Dispose of Insulin Pens?

Diabetes affects nearly half a billion people all over the world. Insulin injections continue to be essential for patients with Type 1 diabetes and are also important therapy for Type 2 patients.

With the introduction of insulin pens, patients no longer have to go through the hassle of using a vial and syringe to inject insulin into their bodies every single day.

These pens contain an insulin filled cartridge, a dial to measure dosage, and a disposable needle. They allow simpler, more accurate, and convenient delivery as compared to using a vial and syringe.

The Two Types of Insulin Pens

Insulin pens fall into two main categories: the disposable ones and the reusable ones. A disposable pen comes with a pre-filled insulin cartridge. Once you use it, you have to throw away the entire pen.

A reusable pen, on the other hand, allows you to replace the cartridge instead of throwing away the whole pen. Once the cartridge is empty, you have to take it out, discard it, and install a new one.

No matter which type of pen you use, you have to be careful about the safe disposal of the needle.

In this post, we will be discussing the proper way to dispose of insulin pens and needles. So, let’s begin.

How to Dispose of Insulin Pens

Disposable insulin pens have to be discarded after they are emptied.

Although the pen can be thrown away in your regular household garbage, you do need to detach its needle and dispose of it separately as needles fall into the category of sharps – a medical term for devices that have sharp edges or points used to cut or puncture the skin and there are specific disposal guidelines for these devices.

Used needles and other sharps have to be disposed of safely because they can injure people and animals upon contact.

Moreover, these objects carry traces of body fluids such as blood, thus they may be infected with harmful bacteria and viruses.

This means that they can lead to the spread of infections to healthy individuals. The most commonly caused infections through used needles include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, as well as HIV.

This makes it necessary that needles are disposed of safely whether you are using them at homes, work, school, while traveling or at public places such as restaurants and hotels.

They should never be thrown in the household or public trash cans and recycling bins or flushed down the toilet. This puts your family members, children, janitors, and pets at risk of being harmed.

If you are using a disposable pen and it has been emptied, you can follow these steps for safely discarding them.

Removing and Disposing of the Needle

The first step is to remove the needle from the pen and the best way to do this is by using a needle clipper. This device automatically cuts off the needle, making your insulin pen unusable.

The device can hold up to 1500 clipped needles.

You can easily purchase needle clippers from pharmacies and medical supply stores. However, make sure to check that your insulin pen is compatible with the needle clipper before you buy it.

Once the needle clipper is full, it can be disposed of as per the local sharps disposal regulations of your area.

If you are not using a needle clipper, you can also remove the needle manually but first place the needle cap over it so that you don’t have to come in direct contact with the needle.

This prevents any accidental needle sticks, cuts, or punctures. Once removed, you cannot throw away the needle in your household trash or public garbage collectors.

Instead, you will need to throw it in a sharps disposal container. These containers are made of strong plastic that cannot be punctured by needles or other sharps.

You can get these from any pharmacy or medical store and even online. They come in a variety of sizes including small travel sizes as well. Once they are full you can follow the local guidelines to dispose them of properly.

An easy alternative to a sharps disposal container is your household detergent or bleach plastic bottle that can be emptied and used for this purpose.

Make sure to label it properly using labels like ‘sharps’ and ‘not recyclable’. When it is about three-quarters full, you can dispose of them following the local guidelines.

Discarding the Pen

Once the needle has been clipped or removed from the insulin pen, you can throw it away in your household trash bin as they don’t pose any health threats once emptied.

How to Dispose of the Needle from a Reusable Insulin Pen

Those of you who use a reusable insulin pen, should remove and dispose of the needle after each use. Reusing the needles exposes you to health risks due to bacterial growth on the needle.

So, after you’re done injecting insulin, put the cap back on the needle and unscrew it so that it is detached from the pen. You can then discard it in a sharps disposal container.

Safety Guidelines for Disposing Of Sharp Disposal Containers

When your sharps disposal container has reached its fill line, you have to take them to the local drop-off collection sites for sharps such as pharmacies, health clinics, medical waste facilities or police stations.

These places conduct sharps collection programs to dispose of home-generated sharps. They offer this service free of cost or for a nominal fee and use physical or chemical methods to destroy the sharps.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind when handling sharps disposal containers:

  • Never fill the containers beyond their fill lines as it can increase the risk of an accidental injury due to a needle stick.
  • When you are away from home, always keep a travel-size sharps disposal container with you so that you can safely dispose of sharps while on the go.
  • Lastly, never reuse a sharps container. Once you have taken it to an appropriate collection site, start using a new one.

You can also dispose of your sharps disposal containers using one of the following facilities.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Sites

These sites are run by local government agencies to collect hazardous waste such as sharps, paints, motor oil, petroleum, etc.

You can look them up online or through the yellow pages and contact them to drop off your sharps disposal containers at their location. They may also provide home pick-up services.

Mail-Back Programs

Many sharps manufacturers provide mail-back services through which you can mail them used sharps contained in FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers.

They will then dispose of them usually for a small fee. The amount charged can vary based on the size and number of containers.

These manufacturers publish details of their mail-back programs on their websites or you can directly contact them to ask about it.

Special Waste Pick-Up Services for Homes

Your community may offer special waste pick-up services that send professionally trained waste managers to collect sharps disposal containers from your house.

You can either call them on request or follow their regular pick-up schedules. They typically charge a fee and have special requirements for the containers they will accept.

At-home Needle Destruction Devices

A lot of sharps manufacturers also sell devices that can automatically and safely sever, melt or burn used needles, making them safe for disposal.

You can get more information about these devices from your local pharmacy or healthcare provider.


People on insulin therapy have to deal with needles and pens on a daily basis.

Always remember that safely disposing of your insulin pens and needles is an absolute must so you or those around you are not exposed to any health and safety risks.

We hope that this simple guide will help you with this task.

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