How to dispose of diabetic test strips, lancets and needles

10
minute read
A glucose monitor, diabetic test strips, a finger prick device, and insulin syringes, sitting on a table.
Photo credit - Nataliya Vaitkevich.

Living with diabetes means needing to regularly monitor and manage your blood glucose levels. To do this, you’ll use several diabetes-related medical supplies. But while these supplies play a vital role in diabetes management, it’s also important to know how to properly dispose of them. This means knowing how to dispose of diabetic test strips, lancets and insulin needles safely and effectively.

Why does this matter? Because improper disposal of diabetic supplies has a significant impact on people’s health and the environment. Diabetic test strips, lancets and insulin needles are considered medical waste and contain substances that may be harmful. If they’re not disposed of correctly, they can be a risk to sanitation workers (most garbage facilities have people sorting garbage by hand), your local community, and even wildlife.

But by following the appropriate disposal practices, you can reduce the chance of that happening.

Here’s everything you’ll need to know:

  • What are diabetic test strips, lancets, and insulin needles?
  • How to prepare diabetes supplies for safe disposal
  • Local disposal options in India
  • How are used diabetes supplies disposed of?
  • How else can you contribute to safe disposal?
  • Conclusion: Disposing of diabetes medical supplies – An ongoing commitment to better health and safety

What are diabetic test strips, lancets and insulin needles?

Before we go into the details of safe disposal, let’s first make it clear what the various diabetes-related medical supplies are and what they’re used for:

  • Diabetic test strips – Diabetic test strips are small, thin plastic strips that you use to measure your blood glucose level. You typically insert them into a blood glucose monitor, then prick your finger and place a small blood sample on the test strip. The blood glucose monitor analyses your blood and tells you your blood glucose level. This allows you to adjust your medication and lifestyle accordingly.
  • Lancets – Lancets are small, fine needles that you use to prick your skin when getting a blood sample. They’re designed to be safely and painlessly used on testing sites like your fingertips, palm, or forearm. Lancets come in different thicknesses (gauges), so you can find the one that’s right for you and your needs.
  • Insulin needles – Insulin needles (also known as syringe needles or pen needles) are used to inject insulin into your body. They come in different lengths and thicknesses, depending on your individual needs and insulin delivery device.

Now that you know what each diabetes-related medical supply does, let’s look at how to dispose of them safely.

How to prepare used diabetes supplies for safe disposal

Making the right preparations for how to dispose of diabetic test strips, lancets and insulin needles will help you reduce the risk of injuries, prevent the spread of infection, and protect the environment.

Here’s what you need to know to safely prepare each of these diabetes-related medical supplies for disposal:

Diabetic test strips

  1. Gather necessary supplies – To safely dispose of diabetic test strips, you’ll need a puncture-proof container (such as a sharps container or a hard plastic bottle with a secure lid), tape or adhesive labels, and a pen or marker for labelling.
  2. Label your container – If you’re bought a sharps container, it likely already has markings that make it clear it contains medical or biohazardous waste. If you’re making your own container, you’ll need to add this. Apply your tape or adhesive label, and add clear markings (such as “Biohazardous waste” or “Used diabetic test strips”).
  3. Place used test strips in your container – After testing your blood glucose, carefully remove the used test strip from your glucose meter and put it in your container. Don’t overfill the container (this increases the risk of accidental spills) and seal it tightly when you’re done.
  4. Store your container safely until disposal – Until your container is ready to be disposed of, store it in a safe and secure location, out of the reach of children and pets.

Lancets and insulin needles

  1. Buy a sharps container – While you can make your own sharps container out of any puncture-proof container, it’s a good idea to simply buy a sharps container. These containers are specifically designed for the disposal of lancets and insulin needles, have a secure lid, and are leakproof (so the risks are greatly reduced).
  2. Label your container – To reduce risk, you need to make sure your sharps container is clearly labelled as containing “Biohazardous waste”, “Used lancets”, or “Used insulin needles”.
  3. Place lancets and insulin needles in your container immediately after use – After each use, carefully place your used lancet or insulin needle into the sharps container. Don’t overfill the container and never attempt to recap, bend or adjust your lancet or insulin needle. When you’re done, close the lid tightly and make sure it’s secure.
  4. Store your container safely until disposal – Keep your sharps container in a secure location until it’s ready to be disposed of. It should be away from and out of reach of children and pets.

Storing your used diabetes-related medical supplies is the first step in safe and proper disposal. When your containers are almost full (don’t overfill them), you can move on to the next step – Safe disposal.

Local disposal options in India

How to dispose of diabetic test strips, lancets and insulin needles correctly will vary slightly depending on the regulations in your local area and the locally available disposal options.

Here are some of the resources and options you can explore:

  • Municipal collection programs and disposal centres – Many municipalities in India have specific programs and disposal centres for medical waste (including sharps waste). Contact your local municipal corporation or health department to find out about their guidelines and collection services. They may have designated drop-off points or scheduled collection services for medical waste.
  • Authorised medical waste disposal services – Some pharmacies and hospitals offer safe medical waste disposal services. Reach out to your local healthcare facilities and pharmacies. Ask them if they accept sharps containers and can dispose of them on your behalf.
  • Community outreach programs and recycling initiatives – Similarly, some community organisations and healthcare institutions run initiatives to collect and properly dispose of medical waste. Contact your local diabetes support groups, clinics, hospitals and non-profit organisations involved in diabetes awareness and management. They may have resources, information, or programs you can join that can help you safely dispose of your diabetes-related medical supplies.

Knowing your available options will help you dispose of your diabetes-related medical supplies safely and responsibly. A good place to start is by familiarising yourself with the guidelines and regulations of your local area. These regulations may vary across states and cities within India, but at a national level waste disposal regulations are overseen by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

How are used diabetes supplies disposed of?

Once you’ve done your part in the proper disposal of your used diabetic test strips, lancets and insulin needles, it’s up to your local municipal corporation or medical waste disposal service to complete the process.

Here are some of the ways they may do that:

  • Incineration – Incineration is a common method for the disposal of medical waste. It involves burning waste at high temperatures, which helps destroy substances that may be harmful.
  • Autoclaving – Autoclaving refers to a sterilisation process. The medical waste is put in a device called an autoclave, that puts it under high-pressure steam at a temperature of 121°C for 15-20 minutes. This sterilises the waste and removes harmful substances.
  • Landfill – Some medical waste is disposed of in specially designated landfill sites. For example, needles are commonly disposed of in a sharps pit. A sharps pit is a pit in the ground lined with cement. It is watertight to prevent leaks and has a slab cover. Sharps waste is added to the pit through a drop pipe.

How else can you contribute to safe disposal?

Disposing of your diabetes-related medical supplies responsibly is a great step. It helps keep yourself, your local community, and the environment safe and healthy.

However, if you’d like to do more, you can also participate in community education and advocacy. Promoting safe disposal of diabetes-related medical supplies helps create awareness and build a culture of responsible waste management.

Here’s how you can contribute:

Spread awareness

  • Share information with other diabetics – Reach out to other diabetics, share knowledge about the importance of safe disposal, and provide them with practical guidelines and advice.
  • Promote safe disposal on online platforms – Use social media platforms, websites or blogs to share information on and promote safe disposal.
  • Collaborate with healthcare providers – Connect with healthcare providers and encourage them to provide clear, actionable guidance on safe disposal in their patient education materials and resources.
  • Organise community workshops or events – Arrange educational events, share proper disposal practices and highlight the impacts of improper disposal on health and the environment. These events could be in partnership with local diabetes groups, community centres, or healthcare facilities.

Partner with local organisations

  • Connect with waste management authorities – Reach out to your local municipal corporation and advocate for improved infrastructure to support safe disposal. For example, your area may benefit from more accessible sharps collection points or specialised collection days for medical waste.
  • Connect with healthcare providers – Similarly, you can also reach out to your local healthcare providers (such as hospitals, clinics and pharmacies) and encourage them to improve access to safe disposal in your local community. For example, you could encourage them to provide additional safe disposal drop-off and collection services, which they can then manage the safe disposal of.

When you participate in community education and advocacy, you help promote responsible disposal among diabetics and the wider community. Remember, small actions can create ripples, leading to positive changes in waste management and environmental conservation.

Conclusion: Disposing of diabetes medical supplies – An ongoing commitment to better health and safety

When you know how to dispose of diabetic test strips, lancets and insulin needles safely and responsibly, you do your part in keeping your environment safe and healthy. This helps you, other diabetics, and your wider community.

Remember, here’s how you can contribute to safe disposal:

  1. Understand your supplies – Know what your diabetes-related medical supplies are for and the risks they could pose to others.
  2. Follow safe-disposal instructions – Follow the step-by-step instructions for the safe disposal of each item. This includes getting the correct containers, storing them safely, and disposing of them responsibly.
  3. Know your disposal options – Familiarise yourself with your local disposal options. This may include municipal collection programs, authorised medical waste disposal services, and community outreach initiatives.
  4. Advocate for safe disposal – Take an active role in community education and advocacy. Spread awareness, collaborate with local organisations, and educate others.

Following these simple steps, you can help build a cleaner, safer, and more sustainable environment.

And remember, safe and responsible disposal of diabetes-related medical supplies is an ongoing commitment. Dedicate yourself to it, and stay informed about any updates to your local regulations or programs related to medical waste disposal.

If you’re keen to get started with safe disposal, buying a sharps container is an excellent first step.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have questions about your medical condition you should always consult your doctor or qualified healthcare provider.

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