How to Dispose of Used Medical Supplies in Your Household or Office


With the prescription drug epidemic and the labeling of medicine that needs to be disposed in special ways, there is a general public awareness of how to get rid of medicine waste. However, that is not the only medical waste that accumulates in your home. Whether due to a chronic condition, a medical emergency, or just everyday use, there are medical supplies that also need to be reused, recycled, or thrown away. This how-to tutorial reviews some of the most commonly used medical supplies and how they should be dealt with after they are no longer needed.

Step 1. Order a Conservative Amount of Supplies

The easiest way to figure out what to do with medical supplies is simply to order the amount that you need. This is easier said than done, but estimate about how much of the supply needed and order only that amount. If a supply has an expiration date such as an epinephrine pen or insulin shot, then order until the estimated expiration date. If the supply is more stable like an ear irrigator or walker, then order only the number needed.

Step 2. Determine the Category of Medical Supply

There are different types of medical supplies. Some of these categories are supply associated with medicine, ambulatory support, diagnostic tools, first aid supplies, and sanitation supplies. Each of those will be disposed of differently.

Step 3a. Disposing of Supplies that Contain Medicine

Medicine can be administered via shot or intravenously. The needles and I.V. bags should be treated as hazardous medical waste and secured in a sharps container or red biohazard bag. Follow the directions on the product or call a local medical waste company in order to learn how these should be discarded. In general, they should never be thrown away with the regular trash.

Step 3b. Disposing of Ambulatory Support

Either due to a medical emergency or chronic condition, many people require some form of ambulatory support. This includes walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, scooters, or canes. There are various materials that make these supports including metal, plastic, and rubber. Most of these materials can be reused even if certain parts of the support have worn out. For example, the rubber tip of a cane or crutches might not be able to be reused for that purpose, but it can be recycled into something else. Check with a local hospital to see about donating used walkers, scooters, or crutches.

Step 3c. Disposing of Diagnostic Tools

Diagnostic tools include supplies such as thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, or pulse oximeters. These are all used in order to provide more information about a bodily function. For the most part, these are almost always able to be reused. They can be donated or dropped off at local medical facilities.

Step 3d. Disposing of Medical Support Supplies

Medical support includes items such as hearing aids, braces, or retainers. Hearing aids batteries that die should either be thrown away or taken to a hazardous waste drop-off facility if they contain mercury. The actual hearing aid can be donated and reused. Items such as braces or retainers can either be thrown away or recycled depending on local recycling rules.

Step 3e. Disposing of Sanitary Supplies

For the most part, all used sanitary supplies will be contaminated. These include items such as adult diapers, pads, and gauze. These used supplies should be double bagged and thrown in the trash.

There are other types of medical supply waste not included in this article. For the most part, this is the type of equipment seen in doctor’s offices or hospitals. However, it is possible that you will have this equipment in your house. In that case, refer to your physician in order to see how to get rid of those supplies. Remember, most medical supplies can be reduced, reused, or recycled. In the event that they are contaminated, follow protocol for hazardous medical waste.

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