'Sharps' are items that have the potential to cause cuts or puncture wounds. This guidance is applicable to all sharps including glass, needles, knifes, blades and medical instruments or devices that may be sharp.

The correct approach to disposal of these items when they become waste depends on the use to which they have been put and the resulting potential hazard they may pose over and above the risk of cuts and punctures.

No glass or other sharp object of any sort should be placed directly into any waste bin where it may pose a risk of cuts etc


Glass suitable for recycling

Of the range of waste sharps generated within the University, at present, only soda glass from the University catering outlets can be recycled. Purple bins into which this waste may be deposited are located close to relevant outlets. Pyrex or glass from a laboratory environment must never be placed in these bins.

Other non-contaminated sharps

The hazard presented by non-contaminated sharps is of cuts etc. This type of waste must, therefore, be collected, stored and transported internally in a way that minimises this risk. A suitable approach in laboratories, workshops or other areas that generate larger quantities is to use a rigid storage container (such as a stout cardboard box) as a temporary location for the waste prior to its transport to the external general (black) waste bin. This container should then be sealed prior to being transported to the black external bin.

In locations where this type of waste is produced infrequently the waste items should be transported directly to the external black bin as soon as is practicable.

Hypodermic needles and other medically related sharps

There are some categories of sharps for which waste producers are advised to take additional precautions prior to disposal in the normal waste stream, for example:

  • hypodermic needles
  • those that may give the impression of being medically related

These types of sharp should be physically mutilated so as to render them unrecognisable and unusable if they were to be removed from the bins by vandals etc. If it is not practicable or safe to carry out this type of treatment prior to placing them into the external general waste bin then the items of waste must be disposed via the approved supplier for disposal of biological waste. See below for further information. It should be made clear to the supplier that these items are not special waste.

Contaminated sharps that are hazardous

Guidance on identifying waste that is hazardous is given in SEPS .

Some sharps can be safely decontaminated prior to disposal. If this can be carried out then the resultant waste can be disposed as described for non-contaminated sharps.

Sharps that cannot be decontaminated must be disposed as special waste. The correct disposal route depends on the nature of the contamination.

  • Waste sharps that are contaminated with hazardous chemicals should be disposed via the approved supplier for disposal of chemical waste. See this link for further information.
  • Waste sharps that are contaminated with biological agents that cannot be deactivated should be disposed via the approved supplier for disposal of biological waste. See this link for further details.
  • For guidance on disposal of waste sharps that are contaminated with radioisotopes you should contact the University Radiation Protection Service