How should I dispose of used needles or sharps?

You should use a sharps bin to dispose of used needles or sharps. A sharps bin is a specially designed rigid box with a lid that’s available on prescription (FP10 prescription form) from your GP or pharmacist. When full, the box can be collected for disposal by your local authority.   

Used needles

Used needles must not be bent or broken before disposal, and you must never try to recap a needle.

Using a needle clipper

You can use a clipper to snap off a needle or the sharp part of a syringe. The needle stays inside the clipper.

However, clippers aren’t designed to remove lancet needles. These are needles used by people with diabetes to check their blood glucose levels, and are designed to be used just once before disposal.

Clippers are available for free on prescription if you’re exempt from charges – for example, if you have diabetes.

Using your sharps bin

You can use your sharps bin to dispose of medical supplies such as:

  • needles
  • syringes
  • lancets used with finger-pricking devices
  • clippers 

Put needles or similar medical supplies into the sharps bin immediately after using them and don’t try to take them out again. Only fill the bin up to where it says “Do not fill above this line”.

While your sharps bin is in use or waiting to be collected, keep it in a safe place so it’s not a risk to other people and is out of the reach of children.

Disposing of your full sharps bin

Arrangements for disposing of full sharps bins vary from area to area.

If you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, and use needles to self-medicate at home, your local council is responsible for collecting your full sharps bin.

You can find out more from your local council’s website. Local councils can charge for this service, but most don’t.

Don’t use other bins

You shouldn’t put used needles or other sharps:

  • in your household waste bin or any other general refuse bin
  • in a container that’s no longer needed, such as a drinks can or bottle

Needles can cause injuries. Used needles can carry blood-borne viruses that may be passed on to other people.

Viruses that can be passed on through contact with needles include:

  • HIV  
  • hepatitis B
  • hepatitis C