Examples of sharps
Sharps are items (or parts of items) that could cause cuts or puncture wounds. These include:
- syringes with needles attached
- pre-filled syringes with needles
- scalpel and other blades
- broken glass ampoules
- the patient end of an infusion set
Considerations for disposal
Syringes containing pharmaceuticals should not be discharged prior to placing them into a sharps bin.
Syringes containing pharmaceuticals or traces of pharmaceuticals should be disposed of in a container that is approved for liquids.
Sharps containing Controlled Drugs
Where the sharp also contains a Controlled Drug (CD), an organisational risk assessment should be undertaken to decide if the CD should be denatured before disposal. This includes medicines prepared but not administered and part-doses.
Factors to consider include the risk of the member of staff receiving a needle stick injury whilst denaturing a CD, compared with the risk of the CD being diverted for illicit purposes. The risk assessment should be supported by a Standard Operating Procedure.
Where an organisational risk assessment deems it unsafe to denature the CD, the entire sharp containing the CD should be disposed of in the appropriate sharps bin.
Managing Controlled Drugs (CD) waste contains further information.
Good practice when managing sharps
Sharps waste bins:
- must be available close to the point of production of the sharps waste
- should be secure and located away from public areas
- should not be placed on the floor
- must not be filled above the mark, which indicates that they are full
Filled sharps waste bins
Only sharps waste produced by the organisation may be consigned from the organisation’s premises. This means only sharps resulting from patient care within the organisation can be disposed of by that organisation.
Filled sharps bins must be stored securely, pending collection by a waste contractor. They should not be allowed to accumulate in corridors, wards or other places accessible to members of the public.
Sharps waste bins from patients
Where an individual administers their own medication at home, they should be supplied with a sharps bin. These can be prescribed on an FP10 prescription. The individual should be advised of the local disposal options. The local council can be contacted for current advice for a specific locality.
If the medicine is supplied via homecare, the contract should have provision for the collection of waste medication and sharps.
Use the correct sharps bin
Sharps contaminated with pharmaceutical waste can be divided into two broad groups:
- sharps contaminated with pharmaceutical hazardous (cytotoxic and cytostatic) waste
- sharps contaminated with pharmaceutical non-hazardous (non-cytotoxic and non-cytostatic) waste
Pharmaceutical hazardous waste
Sharps contaminated with cytotoxic or cytostatic products should be placed in suitable pharmaceutical hazardous waste containers for disposal.
Purple-lidded sharps bin
A purple-lidded sharps bin must be used and should be clearly labelled with the following information using a black permanent marker pen, before filling the container:
- Sharps waste contaminated with Pharmaceutical Hazardous Waste for incineration
- Cytotoxic and Cytostatic
- EWC 18 01 03* and 18 01 08*
If the waste includes any patient’s own medicines it should additionally be coded as EWC 20 01 31*.
Pharmaceutical non-hazardous waste
Sharps contaminated with pharmaceuticals that are not cytotoxic or cytostatic products should be placed in suitable pharmaceutical non-hazardous waste containers for disposal by incineration.
Managing Controlled Drugs (CD) waste contains further information about what to do if the sharps contains a CD.
Yellow-lidded sharps bin
A yellow-lidded sharps bin must be used and should be clearly labelled with the following information using a black permanent marker pen, before filling the container:
- Sharps waste contaminated with Pharmaceutical Non-hazardous Waste for incineration
- Non-Cytotoxic and Non-Cytostatic
- EWC 18 01 03* and 18 01 09
If the waste includes any patient’s own medicines it should additionally be coded as EWC 20 01 32.