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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:

Needles for medication

If you use needles to inject medication, it's your responsibility to dispose of them safely. For example, if you have:

  • diabetes and use a syringe, injection pen or insulin pen for regular insulin injections
  • a severe allergy for which you may need to inject adrenaline (epinephrine) from a preloaded syringe or injection pen

Needles used for illegal drugs

Reusing a needle to inject illegal drugs carries a high risk of catching a serious blood-borne infection. Needles should never be reused or shared to avoid the risk of passing on an infection.

Many areas in England have needle and syringe programmes that provide free supplies of clean needles and advice on disposing of used needles safely.

Contact your local pharmacy or drug treatment service to find out if there's a programme in your area.

Read about getting help for drug addiction.

Read the answers to more questions about NHS services and treatments.

Further information:

Children with diabetes

Parents describe how they deal with having a diabetic child, including daily routines such as insulin injections, and how children can live life to the full.

Media last reviewed: 29/05/2015

Next review due: 29/05/2017

Page last reviewed: 02/11/2016

Next review due: 02/11/2019