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.
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