Diabetes and Sharps - Storage and Disposal

Disposing of sharps correctly is important to avoid contamination
Disposing of sharps correctly is important to avoid contamination.

Disposal of sharps such as needles and lancets affects most people with diabetes. Used needles can cause hygiene issues and injuries, and include serious risks such as HIV contamination.

The psychological damage of an injury related to sharps is also significant, and therefore every individual has the responsibility to dispose of sharps safely.

There are a number of simple sharps disposal tips that people with diabetes can take on board to minimise the likelihood of injuries or contamination:

  • Never share a syringe or finger pricker/lancet
  • Keep all needles and glucose monitoring equipment clean and free of blood
  • Keep all sharps out of reach of children at all times
  • Once sharps are in a disposal box, never try to get them out

Storing and disposing sharps

Sharps such as those used by many people with diabetes are clinical waste.

This means that, unless they are certified safe as domestic waste (such as some of the most recent finger-prickers) there should be a specific means of disposal.

Needles, syringes and lancets should be disposed of in a specially designated sharps disposal box, not in a fizzy drink can, plastic bottle or similar container.

Sharps should be disposed of in a sharps disposal box or some people prefer to use a clipper, which then itself needs to be disposed of in a sharps disposal box.

  • Both clippers and sharps disposal boxes are available in the UK on prescription.

However, clippers cannot be used to dispose of lancets. Sharps disposal boxes come in a variety of sizes, some of which are suitable for travel.

You can also buy sharps bins from the Diabetes Shop.

Sharps bin
Sharps Guard Yellow - 1 Litre
£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.
Sharps bin 60 Plus
Sharpak 60 Plus - 6 Litre
£8.73 (£6.98 with VAT relief) Sharpak 60 PLUS 6 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.

What to do when the sharps disposal box is full

A number of schemes are in place in the UK, and your HCP should be able to tell you how to dispose of your box.

This could involve taking it to a GP surgery or pharmacy, or even having it collected by the local council. Your local council has a duty to collect your sharps bin, but you may have to request this and they may charge you.

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.

What the community are saying about Sharps Disposal

  • Synonym: I think that there should be some provision made for disposing of what is clearly hazardous waste. I got my sharps box from the hospital clinic and anticipate/hope that they will exchange it when necessary.
  • China: At both my GP's surgery and local dispensary there are notices asking people to contact the local council for a free sharps box - and the relevant contact details given. The Council's environmental/recycling department have responsibility for disposing of sharps equipment in the appropriate manner. I phoned up and received my box 2 days later. What a brilliant service!
  • Serena51: My sharps box was written up on the prescription when I got my test strips and lancets for the first time. Only problem is how to dispose of once full as both the chemist and the DN had told me that each other would take it.
  • christineb: I am having problems getting somebody to take my sharps bin. Pharmacy wouldn't take it, GP surgery wouldn't take it and Diabetic Clinic wouldn't take it. I was told by one place to wrap it up in bubble wrap and put it in the Bin!
  • Roo.be: I would advise against putting any medical surplus in the household waste as the bin men can refuse to empty your rubbish if they any suspicion of dangerous items being put in them, especially sharps.
Your Comments
I had the familiar run around from GP to pharmacy and no one could tell me how to dispose of my son's sharps. After extensive internet searching I found out my local council has a sharps collection service ( Barnet 0208 3595045 ) I hope all local councils provide this service, there is clearly a huge need.
Posted by Jane, London on Wednesday, January 18, 2012
I can not longer test my sugar levels as my surgery has not prescribed for me testing strips or sharps. I am diabetic type 2. I take l metformin per day and my doctor tells me this is sufficient and sugar level testing is not necessary. I do worry about this, especially at night time. I am now 76, and have other health problems too. Do any other type 2 diabetics have the same problem with getting sugar level testing supplies on prescription?
Posted by Yvonne Taylor, Aylesbury on Saturday, May 08, 2010
My sharps go into a sharps box which I got from our med centre, it's one of the large ones so will take some time to fill, go and ask your local surgery or at the med and dent centre. For disposal try the local hospital!
Posted by Steve Pink, Basingstoke on Friday, May 07, 2010
I live in Farnborough, Hampshire and our local council (Rushmoor Borough Council) operate an excellent delivery and collection Sharps Bin service.
Posted by Stargayser on Friday, May 07, 2010
I have recently moved into the area and finding it increasingly difficult to obtain a large enough sharps box to accomadate my sharps. As I am on the insulin pump, I need the larger size container and as yet I have only been offered a 1 litre size which do not accomadate the size of sharps. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
Posted by pamela myers, northampton on Friday, May 07, 2010
My doctor put my sharps box (along with lancets and test strips) on a repeat prescription - the GPs practice takes in the full sharps box and I trot off to the pharmacy for a new one. The easist thing about type 2 has been the medical support.
Posted by Simonmac2 on Thursday, May 06, 2010
Whatever you do, be careful not to lose any! I lost an unused syringe in my flat. When I moved out, the council found it, and even though it was obviously unused (still sealed) they got quite stroppy about it. They accused me of being a junkie and then tried to fine me £80 to dispose of it. So be careful :-)
Posted by badmedisin on Thursday, May 06, 2010
My sharps are collected by local council. I just register that it needs emptying on their website and they come and collect it the next week and leave me a replacement. I think there does need to be some procedure when travelling as I have just come back from Egypt and had to bring my tupperware box back with me with used sharps.
Posted by Sue, Dartford, Kent on Thursday, May 06, 2010
Had problems getting a sharps bin from previous GP surgeries, though isn't a problem now. Have had a sharps bin on presciption too, so getting hold of one shouldn't be a problem. For those having problems disposing of them, pester the GP to take them, as they should have a sharps collection with injections that they provide. If that fails, try a chemist, or leave them at a hospital.
Posted by PT on Thursday, May 06, 2010
Hi, when I lived in Oxfordshire I was issued with a sharps box by the nurse in the diabetic clinic. When it was full I took it to the receptionist who gave me a new one and the old one was put into the practise waste bin for collection and disposal. Here in Devon I asked about sharps disposal and was told they didn't know what happened to them - not so good.
Posted by Pam Floyd, Devon on Thursday, May 06, 2010
I have had diabetes for years and when living in Northern Ireland I have had no bother with getting hold of or disposing of sharps bins, however when I moved to Dundee to study I have had a lot of problems disposing of them, every time I have to go half way across town to do so, it is a complete shambles!
Posted by Peter, Dundee on Thursday, May 06, 2010
When I first moved to where I am now, I asked my diabetic consultant, my diabetic nurse and my doctor, and was told the same by all of them just throw empty cartridges in the waste bin and clip my needles then throw the clipper in the waste. Where I lived before I had a sharps box but apparently that is not done here they were not very sure even about taking my old sharps box when it was full.
Posted by gary95, scotland on Thursday, May 06, 2010
I take mine to the Diabetic clinic and Dispose in Nurses - Needle Bin Stored in a Stong Plastic Bucket.
Posted by clubshot, North London on Thursday, May 06, 2010
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