Thursday, May 14, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Donna Hodgson, Teddylyn, eword10, emelle, Lisa Laree, Amy, goodworks1, Elaina, Gwen, Becky, ezeldabeth, Claire, Ivalyn, SunnyQ and Beth Conky for talking back to my confesison last Friday! I asked how people dispose of their used sewing machine needles.

I combined the input that I got from everyone here (special thanks to Elaina who knows a lot about this!) and added a little bit of my own research on the web (see, in particular, , and here’s what I got out of it:

Regardless of the type of sharp implement, there is a growing desire to protect people (especially sanitation workers) from getting hurt and so the generally recommended process is to put your used sharps in some kind of container before throwing them into the trash. One site recommended any puncture resistant, shatterproof container with a sealable lid. My commenters had a lot of specific examples, in addition to the pill bottle that I use:

  • Empty spice container
  • Empty 35 mm film canister
  • Empty needle container
  • Empty coffee can
  • Empty Altoids tin
  • Empty baby formula glass bottle

They also suggested some minor variations to this approach, including:

  • Double-seal the container by taping or gluing the lid shut
  • Label the container before tossing it.

Medical sharps, such as the syringes used by diabetics for insulin, pose the additional risk of accidental transmission of infectious diseases. Because of this, more and more communities / counties / states are imposing additional restrictions on sharps disposal. These restrictions include things like:

  • Using an approved community drop box (possibly available at a pharmacy or doctor’s office or even the “city dump”)
  • Participating in a mail-back and/or syringe exchange program
  • Hiring residential special waste pick-up services

While sewing machine needles (typically) shouldn’t pose a risk of medical contamination, the key is this: Some local ordinances distinguish between medical sharps and other sharps and only apply these special rules to medical sharps, while other local ordinances do not make this distinction and apply the same rules to all sharps!

One place to start to learn more about the regulations in your area is:

While most of my commenters use some type of canister to hold their used needles, a few offered alternative suggestions. A couple of people secure their needles in other ways – such as wrapping them in duct tape or weaving them into some other item of trash. And at least two people reported re-using their needles (with or without sharpening) for heavy-duty projects and/or sewing on paper. (In my research I did run across one website that argued that using dull needles could damage your machine by messing up the timing and/or coordination of the internal mechanisms, but I don’t know if that’s true or not.)

This topic brought up a lot of concerns and a lot of good ideas. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to share your thoughts and practices!

Photo credit: fdecomite


SunnyQ said...

Thanks Gwen for posting on such a useful and lively topic! :>