What are sharps?

“Sharps” is a term referring to any sharp device with points/edges that may cause punctures or cuts, from medical instruments like needles, syringes and lancets, to more domestic items like blades, scissors and broken glass/crockery/plastic. Even shards of bone and teeth are classed as sharps.

Safe management of sharps is covered under UK health and safety legislation. Sharps are particularly hazardous when they are contaminated and pose a risk of infection. Be extra cautious with sharps soiled by blood, body fluid or medication, as they are classed as biohazardous material.

How should sharps be disposed of?

Whether sharps are used in a home or work environment, they must be disposed of safely. Anyone who deals with sharps is responsible for disposing of them in a way that will minimise risk of injury.

Sharps bins are yellow with colour coded lids, and they’re legally necessary for all businesses that use sharps. They’re made of a hard, puncture-proof plastic so that sharps waste can be safely contained without posing a risk of injury. Get to know what each colour means:

  • Orange lidded containers are for non-pharmaceutically contaminated sharps (such as sharps used for blood samples or acupuncture)
  • Yellow lidded containers are for other partially discharged and empty sharps (including those contaminated with medicines or anaesthetics)
  • Purple lidded containers are for cyto sharps (sharps contaminated with cytotoxic and cytostatic medicines)