Diabetes and Sharps - Storage and Disposal
Upon using and disposing of these materials, it is your responsibility to ensure they are removed from your possession safely.
What is a sharps bin?
A sharps bin is a container that can be filled with used medical needles and all categories of sharps waste, before being disposed of safely.
Sharps bins are necessary for people with diabetes who use sharp materials - putting used needles in household waste bins, or other general refuse bins - can result in injury to others.
Used needles cannot be thrown away in a normal bin as they are sharp and liable to pass on an infection if they come into contact with others.
Infections such as HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C can be carried on used needles, which can be passed on to other people if not properly disposed of.
How do I obtain a sharps bin?
Sharps bins are available on prescription from your general practitioner (GP) or chemist. Using a sharps bin protects everyone involved in the disposal process and makes sure the waste is treated safely.
How do I use a sharps bin?
You should store your sharps bin in a safe place inside your home and keep all sharps out of reach of children at all times.
To ensure the bin is not dangerous to others, you should not remove the lid once it contains waste.
Once you have placed a sharp object into your sharps bin, you should not try and take it out again as you may receive an injury. Sharps should be placed into the bin one at a time, and in one piece. They should not be bent, broken or dismantled before being put in.
The list of items you can place in your sharps bin include:
- Lancet needles/syringes
- Insulin pen needles
- Injection cartridges/vials
- Full needle-clippers
You can also buy sharps bins from the Diabetes Shop.
£3.50 (£2.80 with VAT relief) Sharps Guard Yellow 1 Litre is a specially designed rigid plastic box with a lid for the storage and disposal of your used blood glucose strips, needles and lancets.
When do I need to change my sharps bin?
When your sharps bin is almost two thirds full you should seal and label the container before ordering another bin.
You should not fill your sharps bin above the full line, nor force sharps into a full bin by trying to push them down further and risk hurting yourself.
Once your bin is ready to be removed, it must be stored securely as you await collection and the arrival of your new bin.
How do I replace my sharps bin?
As sharps are classed as clinical waste, special arrangements need to be made for their disposal, which can vary from area to area.
You may be able to return your sharps bin to your GP surgery or chemist, with some free collection services run.
If you have diabetes, you can ask your local council to collect your sharps bin, although some may charge a fee for providing this service.
Using a needle clipper
A needle clipper can be used to snap off a needle or the sharpest part of a syringe. They are available on prescription and free for people with diabetes.
The needles stay inside the clipper once clipped, however, they cannot be used to remove lancet needles.
Travelling with sharps
When travelling with sharps, it is essential to check with your GP to make sure all disposal equipment is included in an accompanying letter.
The guidelines about sharps disposal in foreign countries should be available from the national diabetes body wherever you are visiting.