How to dispose of sharps containers?

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There isn’t a single process for disposing of sharps containers.  The required process depends on how the sharps waste was first generated.

When considering the various options available it is important to remember that the objective is to ensure the safe storage, removal and disposal of sharps waste.

How is sharps waste classified?

To identify the most appropriate disposal method sharps waste needs to be classified. The differing classifications are:

Non-hazardous sharps

Non-hazardous sharps waste is generated in a health care environment where the sharps are used in situations where the patient doesn’t have an infectious illness and won’t require medication. For example, blood donors.

Infectious sharps

Needles and syringes that are used to treat patients may become infected with blood borne viruses. Consequently, anyone coming into contact with these contaminated items are at risk. In particular nurses and doctors are at risk from occupational exposure to viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis c and HIV. Due to the inherent risk, infectious waste is considered hazardous and needs to be managed accordingly.

Sharps contaminated with Pharmaceuticals

Needles and syringes are routinely contaminated with the pharmaceutical residue. This poses additional risks to health care professionals and those who come into contact with these items.  There is an added complication that the disposal method required varies depending on the actual medication that was used. For example, sharps contaminated with cytotoxic and cytostatic medication is considered hazardous waste and requires a different waste treatment process than sharps used to deliver other medications.

Dispose of sharps containers

The classification of the sharps waste determines the options available for treatment and how to dispose of sharps containers:

Non-hazardous sharps waste treatment options

As non-hazardous sharps waste poses less of a threat to public health that hazardous waste there are more options available. These include steam sterilisation in an autoclave or high temperature incineration (HTI). Some waste management companies will recommend HTI because it removes the requirement to segregate hazardous and non-hazardous sharps waste.

Hazardous sharps waste treatment options

Extreme care is required to minimise the risk to public health and to reduce instances of injury associate with sharps waste. When treating hazardous sharps waste high temperature incineration will ensure its total destruction.

What next?

Waste management is a complex issue and has wide ranging implications. If you require advice please contact our client services team.


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