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scissors and scalpels on metal tray sharps waste.

Sharps bins come in a range of colours, sizes, and types of containers. They’re used to safely store all sorts of clinical waste – from used scalpels to syringes and razor blades. Find out everything you need to know about sharps waste management in our helpful guide that explains what you can put into sharps bins and how to use them safely.

At Divert we can supply your business with free sharps bins and advise on the best ones to use for your organisation. Plus, we can arrange a low-cost waste collection schedule to suit your needs. Get a free quote for sharps bins today – call 0333 444 0118 or contact us online.

A Guide to Sharps Bin
Colours and Sizes

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What is a sharps bin?  

A sharps bin is a container for temporarily storing sharps waste items where safety is paramount. The bins are different colours with lockable lids that are tamper resistant. Waste containers for sharps are made from very hard-wearing polypropylene. This means they’re impact and puncture-proof and won’t leak any fluids that may be inside.

Sharps bins are colour-coded, as different types of waste are disposed of in different ways. Separating the waste avoids cross-contamination of substances and products. Sharps bins are available in a range of sizes, depending on the volume of waste produced.

What goes in a sharps container?

Any object that’s sharp and is used to puncture or lacerate skin can go in a sharps container. Common examples include needles, scalpels, scissors, and knives. Most sharps bins are used to store contaminated clinical waste, such as a scalpel used during surgery. Sharp items like knives, pins, staples, and contaminated glass are also considered sharps waste.

The most common form of sharps waste is clinical waste, which includes:

  • Syringes
  • Scalpels
  • Insulin pens
  • Hypodermic and tattoo needles
  • Razor blades
  • Piercing guns and needles
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What is a sharps bin used for?

A sharps bin is used for the safe storage of certain hazardous waste and sharps items. Some types of waste must be disposed of in a sharps bin but might not be ‘sharp.’ For example out-of-date prescription medicine or some types of contaminated PPE. This avoids contamination with other waste.

Waste in sharps bins should be properly and safely disposed of and compliant with the Health & Safety Regulations. For more information on the laws and regulations regarding sharps waste, see our section below on clinical waste regulations and legal requirements – or check out our page about clinical waste collection.

yellow sharps bin

What colour are sharps bins?

Sharps bin colours include yellow, orange, purple, red, and blue. Sharps bins are colour-coded so that any sharp and healthcare waste is safely separated and disposed of correctly. Often the bin may be yellow but it’s the lid that’s a different colour. Separating types of waste also reduces the risk of cross-contamination.

Here’s what goes in the different sharps bin colours:

What goes in yellow-lidded sharps bins? 

Sharp instruments that are contaminated with a medical or chemical product should go in a yellow-lidded sharps bin. For example, needles and syringes that have been used to give an injection. Not all medical waste can be put into a yellow-lidded bin. Anything that contains cytotoxic and cytostatic properties must be disposed of in a purple-lidded bin.

What goes in orange-lidded sharps bins? 

Sharp instruments that are not medically or chemically contaminated can be put in an orange-lidded sharps bin. For example, a scalpel that hasn’t been used or a syringe that has been used to take blood. Orange-lidded bins are used for sharps that aren’t pharmaceutically contaminated. For example knives, sharp stationery or tattoo or piercing needles.

What goes in purple-lidded sharps bins? 

Sharps and items that contain cytotoxic and cytostatic waste must be disposed of in purple-lidded sharps bins. These substances are in some types of medicines. For example, antiviral or antibiotics, hormone-based drugs and those used to treat cancer. Items in a purple-lidded sharps bin can also include patches, vials and blister packs from products containing cytotoxic and cytostatic.

What goes in red-lidded sharps bins? 

Any anatomical waste, like blood bags, should go in a red-lidded sharps bin.

What goes in blue-lidded sharps bins?

Blue-lidded sharps bins don’t contain items that are regarded as ‘sharp.’ They’re used to safely store prescription-only medicine that has either been partly used or is out of date.

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Sharps waste information for businesses

What types of businesses use sharps bins?

Medical establishments produce a lot of clinical sharps waste. Hospitals, laboratories, doctors’ surgeries, and dentists frequently need to dispose of medical sharps waste. Many other businesses need to arrange sharps waste collection for items they use such as:

  • Cosmetics companies – such as piercing and beauty salons, tattoo studios, and hairdressers
  • Hospices, care homes, and nursing homes
  • Veterinary practices and animal care facilities
  • Schools and educational facilities
  • Food sector – restaurants, takeaways, and commercial kitchens
  • Clothing industry – manufacturers and retailers
used syringes.

Where can I get a sharps bin?

You don’t need to buy sharps bins – at Divert we can provide you with sharps bins free of charge. There are no rental or delivery fees, or any hidden charges, you only pay for the collection costs. Simply let us know what colours, number, and sizes of sharps bins you need and where you’re located for a free quote.

Contact us for more information about your sharps waste disposal. We can arrange a low-cost collection schedule that works for you.

How do I use a sharps bin?

Using a sharps bin or container is like most other bins, although you should take extra care due to the nature of this waste. Here’s how to use a sharps bin safely:

  • Place waste into a sharps waste bin as soon as they’ve been used
  • Don’t try to take anything out of a sharps bin
  • Fill a sharps bin no more than three-quarters full
  • Don’t leave a sharp object sticking out of a bin
  • You must not put an item that should go in a sharps bin into general rubbish, a recycling bin, or another type of container such as an empty drinks bottle

How and where should sharps bins be stored?

Sharps bins should be kept in a safe location to reduce the risk of any accidents. Here’s where and how to store sharps bins safely in your organisation:

  • Sharps bins should be kept at eye level and within each reach
  • Sharps bins should be kept out of reach of children
  • Once a sharps bin is filled to the fill line, arrange collection, and store it safely until it can be removed
  • Make sure the bin is securely closed and locked before collection and disposal

How to arrange disposal of sharps waste

When your bins are filled to the marked line on the side you’ll want to get rid of your sharps waste safely. Booking regular daily, weekly, or fortnightly collections can ensure your sharps waste is regularly removed. As a business owner, you’re responsible for disposing of your sharps bins in a safe way that minimises the risk of injury.

At Divert we can arrange a low-cost collection schedule to suit your needs, depending on your usage of the bins. Call 0333 444 0118 or contact us online to arrange removal and disposal of your sharps waste in a safe, legal, and responsible way.

What regulations are in place for sharps bin waste?

In the UK, the main regulations you need to understand that cover sharps waste are:

  • The Environmental Protection Act 1990
  • The Controlled Waste Regulations 2012
  • Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005
  • The Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations
  • Statutory Duty of Care Regulations
  • Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013
  • List of Wastes Regulations 2005

Find out more information about the laws and regulations covering clinical waste.

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