There are safe ways to dispose of syringes you find on the ground. Sharing injection drug equipment can transmit infections, but there is little risk to someone who is accidentally poked or scratched by a discarded syringe.
Below you'll find information on how to pick them up, where to drop them off, and ways to get involved in cleaning up your neighborhood.
How do I safely dispose of a syringe?
Follow this step-by-step guide on how to safely pick up and dispose of syringes
Step 1: Pick it up
Some people use a tissue or napkin to pick up a discarded syringe, while others feel more comfortable wearing gloves, like gardening or kitchen gloves. Some people also use tongs, pliers or a trash grabber. That’s a good idea for anyone who is going to pick up a lot of syringes or who is going on a community clean-up.
Step 2: Drop it in
Use a hard plastic container, such as a sharps container or 20-ounce water or juice bottle with a lid.
Set the container on the ground
Drop the syringes in, one at a time, needle point down.
Step 3: Seal it up
- Close the container tight.
- If you have a piece of tape you can seal the top
- If you have a pen, you can write on the outside, “SHARPS. DO NOT RECYCLE.”
Step 4: Drop it off
It's against the law to throw syringes in the garbage, even if they are in a secure plastic container. Instead, drop the container in a nearby sharps box or take it to a Metro Household Hazardous Waste Facility.
For more disposal options, or if you have questions about medical waste disposal, or find an illegal dump on public property, contact Metro at 503-234-3000. If you find discarded syringes in Portland’s city center and don’t feel comfortable picking it up, call Downtown Clean & Safe at 503-224-7383 to report the waste.
Can I throw syringes in the trash?
No. It's against the law to throw syringes in the garbage, even if they are in a secure plastic container. Instead, drop the container in one of these sharps boxes or Metro Facilities. For more disposal options, contact Metro at 503-234-3000.
What if I see a syringe dropbox is full or has been damaged?
For maintenance and repair issues, please call Multnomah County Facilities at 503-988-3779.
Where do I dispose of diabetic syringes or other medical waste?
Do not dispose of household medical sharps or other waste in syringe disposal boxes intended for community disposal. For households where syringes are used, place syringes in a sharps container and take them to a hazardous waste center:
Enroll in the Metro syringe disposal program for $5 and get a free sharps container each time you return one. A $5 hazardous waste fee for up to 35 gallons is also required. Group homes, residential care facilities and other commercial or business customers should contact a medical waste management company, their garbage hauler or Metro’s recycling hotline for disposal options. If you have questions about medical waste disposal, contact Metro at 503-234-3000.
I want to help. Where can I find out about organizing a neighborhood cleanup?
Contact the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability at 503-823-7202 for city-organized cleanup dates and locations. Neighborhood Coalitions also schedule cleanup events:
Many neighborhoods and community groups are organizing clean up events. Talk to your local city government or neighborhood association about organizing an event close to home. Portland residents can find information about your neighborhood association from the City of Portland Office of Community & Civic Life at 503-823-4519.
Request a free 1-quart disposal container
Multnomah County provides neighbors with free sharps containers. Each bin is about 1 quart, and can hold about 50 syringes. Just fill out this form (English), and someone will reach out to schedule a good time for you to pick up the container. Every order will include a brief guide on how to safely dispose of syringes and a list of places where you can drop off the bins when you are done.