Insulin pens 

"I believe you would treat them like a syringe or other medical sharp."

EDITOR'S NOTE: All of Ask Renee's columns are moving to NUVO! Here's one from August of 2015.

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click to enlarge mchd_sharps-copy1.jpg


I’m diabetic and use insulin pens. I have always presumed that the used pens are not recyclable; however, I’m not sure about the needles’ plastic caps. This isn’t the actual plastic/needle part or part of the pen but rather a clear plastic cover about the size of fingertip that covers and aids in installing the actual needle part that screws on to the pen. The plastic cap has a small paper tab that keeps it sterile which I’ve nearly always tossed. My question is: Are these small plastic covers recyclable or are they so small that I should toss them so they don’t gum up the machines? Also what about plastic bottle caps? Remove and toss, remove & recycle or leave attached?



Hi Susan,

You’re right on point with wondering if the plastic covers are too small. Tiny pieces of plastic, paper, metal, etc. — even if they’re recyclable — can slip through the machines at the recycling facility. I recommend trying to find out what number of plastic it is and collecting them in a like-numbered container (like a water bottle or butter tub). Once full, the whole container can go in your bin.

I’m not entirely familiar with insulin pens, but I believe you would treat them like a syringe or other medical sharp. has a page that gives information about sharps collection programs throughout the state (click the Sharps Collection Program XLS link). Collection is through the Marion County Health Department in Indy (see the flyer above) and through the Household Hazardous Waste Syringe Disposal Program in Hamilton County.

As for plastic bottle caps, you can leave them on the bottle. I’m sure you don’t have many of these though, since you use your reusable water bottle/travel cup/travel mug whenever you possibly can.

Piece out,



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Renee Sweany

Renee Sweany

Renee has spent the past several years surrounding herself with like-minded people who share her passion for caring for the planet. She began writing “Ask Renee” after four years of offering green tips through her e-newsletter Green Piece Indy. E-mail her your green living queries at

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