Solid Waste & Recycling Newsletter

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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Solid Waste & Recycling Newsletter

Handle with Care - Household Medical Items

Unused Medicine

Stay safe and Recycle Right NY! Safe handling and management of household medical items is important. Needles, syringes, masks, gloves, and medication can be dangerous to people and the environment if improperly disposed of. Please keep these items out of your recycling bin. Managing these items safely and responsibly helps keep your community safe!

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Used masks and gloves belong in the trash, not your recycling bin or the environment. With the increased use of these items, improper disposal is contaminating recycling streams, putting recycling workers at risk, and creating litter in our communities. Learn more on how to make a homemade reusable mask from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Needles & Syringes (“Sharps”): Used needles, syringes, and lancets should never go in the recycling bin. Medical sharps, whether loose or stored in a plastic container, that are placed in recycling bins injure local recycling facility employees by pricking them and spreading bloodborne illnesses like HIV and Hepatitis C.
  • Unused Medications: Never put unused medications in the recycling bin or down the drain. Doing so contaminates other recyclable materials and pollutes local waterways. Putting medications in the trash is a last resort, and all of the proper steps should be followed. Learn how to responsibly dispose of unused medications and find medication drop-box locations near you.
  • Medicine Bottles: Some local recycling programs accept empty medicine bottles while many others do not. Be sure to “Know before you throw!” by checking with your municipality, hauler, or local pharmacy about recycling options. If they are accepted, remove or black out labels before recycling. If not, donate to an organization for reuse or reuse at home.

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