The disposal of sharps generated in the community has been identified as an area of public health and environmental health concern. While there is a large amount of literature on sharps disposal practices in healthcare settings, the sharps disposal practices of diabetic patients living at home has been poorly documented. This study describes the sharps disposal practices of diabetic patients in South Staffordshire, an English health district. A randomly selected sample of 1,348 adult (aged >or= 16 years) diabetic patients were obtained from the district population-based diabetes register. A self-administered questionnaire was posted to the sample. Non-responders received up to two reminders. A response rate of 91% was achieved. Household containers were used by: 34.1% of respondents for syringes; 35.1% for lancets; and 27.6% for needles. Sharps boxes were the least used method of sharps disposal. Many respondents indicated that they had received only verbal information on how to dispose of their sharps. Those who recalled receiving information were more likely to dispose of their sharps safely. The results of this study suggest that sharps are disposed of in the most convenient manner, into the household waste. This contributes to environmental pollution and places people at risk of physical and psychological trauma.