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How should I dispose of used needles or sharps?

Use a sharps bin to dispose of used needles or sharps. A sharps bin is a specially designed box with a lid that you can get on prescription (FP10 prescription form) from a GP or pharmacist. When full, the box may be collected for disposal by your local council.

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 are not 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 only 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 do not try to take them out again. Only fill the bin to where it says "Do not fill above this line".

Keep your sharps bin in a safe place so it's not a risk to other people and is out of the sight and reach of children.

Disposing of your full sharps bin

Arrangements for disposing of full sharps bins vary depending where you live.

If you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, and use needles at home, your local council may be 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 do not.

Find your local council.

Do not use other bins

Do not put used needles or other sharps in:

  • any type of household bin (for example, a general rubbish bin or a recycling bin)
  • 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 medicine

If you use needles to inject medicine, 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 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. To avoid the risk of an infection, needles should never be reused or shared.

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.

Further information

Page last reviewed: 25 October 2019
Next review due: 25 October 2022