Green Care
Written by Sonja Janousek, Sustainability Coordinator, Lower Mainland Facilities Management / Energy and Environmental Sustainability

This edition: where to dispose of empty syringes.

Recycling Renewal Program

Recycling in health care facilities is different from recycling at home or in an office. Our facilities generate biomedical waste, so our recyclables pose a higher risk to recycling vendor staff that sort items by hand. We want to help ensure you have the information you need to dispose of your waste items correctly.

Missed previous editions? We post the recycling question and answer series with photos and posters on

Edition #10: Empty syringes

Q. Where should I dispose of empty syringes at Lower Mainland hospitals and residential care facilities?

Dispose of empty syringes in the garbage. This includes all types and sizes, for example:

  • Insulin syringes
  • Oral medication syringes
  • Injection pens
  • Safety syringes
  • Needleless injectors
  • Flush syringes
  • Blood collection syringes and vacutainers

Regardless of the fact that it is a needleless syringe, or the needle has been removed, it must be placed in the garbage.

Q. But, why can’t I recycle empty syringes in the mixed container bin?

These items aren’t accepted by our recycling vendor for three reasons:

  1. Since, there is no way to guarantee that the syringe didn’t contain blood or bodily fluid, our recycling vendor doesn’t accept them, even when empty.
  2. Similarly, there is no way to guarantee that the needle was removed from the syringe.
  3. And lastly, even though the syringe barrel is made of plastic, the piston that seals the liquid in the barrel is made of rubber. Rubber isn’t a recyclable material.

Send us your questions. Unsure about what can and can’t be recycled and why? Or do you have an inspiring story about recycling in your unit? Send an email to’ll include your question in a future edition of Ask Sonja and Helen, or contact you directly.

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