Disposing of Sharps

Yellow lidded sharps box

This type of sharps box should be used to dispose of medicinally contaminated sharps, including vials, bottles and ampules of medicine, clinical sharps and pharmaceutical waste.

Infectious sharps waste should also be disposed on in this waste stream, but it must not be used to dispose of sharps contaminated with cytotoxic or cytostatic substances.

Waste disposed of in a yellow-lidded, yellow sharps box will undergo disposal by incineration.


Purple lidded sharps box

This type of sharps box should be used to dispose of clinical waste, mixed sharps, infectious waste and cytotoxic and cytostatic waste.

This also includes vials, bottles and ampules of cytotoxic and cytostatic medicine:

Cytotoxic – substances are substances that are toxic to living cells, such as chemotherapy treatments that are used to destroy cancer cells.

Cytostatic – substances are used to suppress cell growth. For example, some cancer hormone therapies are cytostatic as they inhibit the multiplication of cancer cells and stop the cancer growing.

Waste disposed of in a purple-lidded, yellow sharps box will undergo disposal by incineration.

Regulatory bodies

UK standards are well regulated, so it’s important that everyone using sharps complies with the standards detailed in the health technical memorandum 07-01

Any failure to comply with the standards will be dealt with by the appropriate regulating body:

Care quality commission (England)

Controls assurance (Northern Ireland)

Care inspectorate (Scotland)

Standards for health services (Wales)

When your employer Implements a segregation system into your workplace, it’s important that they consider a number of factors to ensure that appropriate waste segregation because

When designing a waste segregation system, the following issues should be considered:

  • Waste receptacles should be as close to the point of sharps production as possible
  • Waste bins should not be placed in visitor-accessible areas, including next to hand basins in patient bays
  • All sharps receptacles should be replaced when three-quarters full and never overfilled
  • Sharps receptacles must always be securely sealed
  • Sharps receptacles must be properly labelled to indicate their origin before they are used
  • Collection of sharps receptacles should be arranged at an appropriate frequency
  • All staff must be trained on Waste segregation systems and why they are important


Sharps boxes

All sharps receptacles must be:

  • Approved by the infection prevention and control team. All sharps bins must comply with the UN 3291 requirements
  • Easily accessible (at eye level and within easy reach) wherever clinical sharps are in use. They must be accessible by children.
  • Correctly assembled, solid, and secure
  • Stored securely while awaiting collection. They must not be accessible to children
  • Properly labelled prior to use. All boxes must be labelled with the organizations name, ward/department/clinic name, the name of the individual who assembled the box, the date the box was assembled and the name of the individual who closed, locked and disposed of the box
  • Dated before being sent to disposal


Recapping a needle

Recapping a needle is dangerous as it puts you at high risk of a puncture wound. Therefore, you should always avoid resheathing a needle

However, if you must resheath a needle for overriding safety reasons, then you should use the one-handed scoop technique

  1. Place the cap onto an even surface
  2. Using one hand, slide the needle into the cap. You should not be holding the cap when doing this.
  3. When the needle is fully within the cap, scoop it off the surface and use your other hand to ensure the cap is securely fastened 4. Once the cap is securely fastened, dispose of the needle in the correct sharps bin.


Disposing of sharps

It is important that you dispose of all sharps safely to reduce the risk of injury or infection. When disposing of a sharp, you must:

  • Ensure you can safely handle and dispose of your sharps before you begin a procedure.
  • Take the sharps container to your patient, wherever possible, rather than taking the sharps to the container
  • Discard all sharps items into the correct sharps box immediately after use.
  • Never separate single use needles and syringes prior to disposal. You should place the complete needle and syringe unit into the correct sharps bin
  • Not put large pieces of broken glass or crockery into a sharps bin.

For non-disposable sharp items, you must always ensure they are rendered safe after use. You can do this by:

  • Using purpose-made blade or needle removal kits or forceps to safely remove scalpel blades and needles
  • Dispose of the scalpel blade or needle in the correct sharps bin


You will need to use a medical waste disposal company

When a sharps box is 3/4 full, no more sharps should be disposed of in it. Doing so puts you at a increased risk of injury

When a sharps box is full, you should:

  • Seal it with a tamper-proof lid
  • Ensure that it is correctly labelled
  • Follow your workplace procedures for storing the full sharps box while Awaits collection

Full sharps box should be stored in a secure area, away from the public, where no children or young people can access them. It’s important you follow your workplace guidelines to ensure that the sharps box is disposed of correctly.