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Middlesex-London Health Unit

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What are sharps?

Sharps are items that are potentially contaminated with blood or body fluids and are capable of causing a cut or puncture in the skin. Sharps include:

  • Used syringes with needles attached
  • Used needles
  • Used razor blades
  • Broken glass that has come into contact with blood or other body fluids
  • Used smoking pipes/stems
  • Lancets

Why should sharps be handled safely?

  • Sharps can contain blood from other people and this blood can carry blood-borne infections like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. Accidental puncture wounds from sharps can allow the entry of infections through the skin.
  • HIV can live on a needle for up to several hours. Hepatitis B and C can live on a needle for weeks.
  • Anyone can injure themselves with a contaminated sharp object. This includes household members of individuals who use sharps, children who come into contact with sharps when playing or exploring, and workers who pick up garbage waste.



Visit the City of London website for a list of stationary needle bin locations.


How should I handle my own sharps in a safe manner?

  • Do not recap, clip, bend, or break syringes or needles that are ready for disposal.
  • Sharps should be packaged in a specialized sharps container. If you don’t have a specialized sharps container, use a hard plastic container or metal can with a tight fitting lid. The lid should be reinforced with tape, and the container should be marked “biohazard”.
  • Glass containers, cardboard containers, or cardboard boxes should not be used for disposal of sharps.

How do I dispose of sharps?

  • Businesses and health care providers
    Businesses and health care providers must obtain proper sharps disposal containers and arrange for a disposal contract with a biomedical waste disposal company. Sharps containers available through the Counterpoint Needle Exchange program are for personal use only, not business use.
  • People who inject medication
    People who inject medication, such as insulin, should talk to their pharmacy regarding their needle disposal program.
  • People who inject or smoke drugs
    People who inject drugs or use smoking equipment such as glass pipes/stems or foil must package sharps in a hard plastic container or metal tin can with a tight fitting lid and mark it “biohazard”. Sharps containers can be obtained from Counterpoint Needle Exchange. Used sharps can be dropped off to the Counterpoint Needle Exchange or placed in one of the stationary needle bins. A list of stationary needle bins is available on the City of London website.

What should I do if I come across a needle in the community?

If needles are found on public property, please visit the Service London portal or call the City of London at 519-661-4965. This phone line is answered 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Can I place sharps in normal garbage collection?

No. Never dispose of sharps (used needles, syringes, lancets, and glass that has come in contact with blood or body fluids) in your garbage or recycling box.
Only broken glass or other items with sharp or jagged edges that have not come into contact with blood or body fluids can be discarded for normal garbage collection. These items must be completely sealed inside a cardboard box and clearly labeled as “Caution - Broken Glass” for collectors.

How should I handle and dispose of found needles or other sharps?

  • Use caution. Treat all found needles and other sharps as contaminated. Do not try to put the cap back on a needle.
  • If you do not have a specialized sharps disposal container, you will need a non-breakable, puncture-proof container with a lid (e.g. a hard plastic container or tin can).
  • Do not touch the sharp with your bare hands.
  • Use tongs, pliers or tweezers to pick up the sharp. It is best to also wear gloves. Always hold sharp or cutting edges down and away from you.
  • Put the container on a stable surface next to the sharp. Do not hold the container in your hand when placing the sharp inside. If picking up a needle, put the needle in the container point down. Do not force sharps into the container or overfill it.
  • Close the container securely.
  • Wash hands with soap and water and/or an alcohol-based hand rub after handling sharps, containers, used equipment, and after removing gloves.
  • Teach children to never touch sharps but to tell an adult what they found and where.


Counterpoint Needle Exchange

  • Regional HIV/AIDS Connection
    446 York Street, London, ON, N6B 1R2
    Monday - Friday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • Middlesex-London Health Unit - London
    355 Wellington Street, London, ON, N6A 3N7
    Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
  • Middlesex-London Health Unit - Strathroy
    51 Front Street East, Strathroy, ON, N7G 1Y5
    Every Thursday from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

All services of the Counterpoint Needle Exchange are free and confidential. Services also include counseling, free condoms, and other equipment for safer drug use.

What should I do if I am exposed to blood while handling a sharp?

If you are exposed to blood while handling a sharp, contact or visit a health care provider as soon as possible. The health care provider will provide advice about the need for blood tests, vaccinations, and/or medications. The Middlesex-London Health Unit can also be called for advice (Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 519-663-5317; after hours 519-663-5317 - option 2).

Date of creation: April 15, 2013
Last modified on: October 19, 2023


1Regional HIV/AIDS Connection's Safe Needle Disposal. (N.D.). Retrieved from