Sharps containers at SASH are helping to reduce waste and improve safety
23 September 2022
By RJ Heron
Sharps containers play an important role help to prevent needlestick injuries. When disposing of sharps containers previously, both the containers and their contents would have been thrown away for incineration, whereas their new sharps containers from Sharpsmart are multi-use, reducing the amount of waste generated.
Until now, sharps containers have been made of virgin plastics, meaning they’re manufactured from new materials for one, single-use purpose.
The new Sharpsmart containers can be used as normal and when full they are sent away to be emptied, sterilised and quality checked to ensure safety – this allows them to be used again and again. The change means we can continue to protect our patients and staff whilst reducing our plastic waste and environmental impact.
The containers are quite easy to spot and have a similar design. We have included an image below that shows the different colour variations and what sharps they are for.
- Yellow – Medicinal and chemical sharps
- Orange – Non-medicinal sharps
- Purple – Cytotoxic sharps
- Blue – Pharmaceutical sharps
Improved safety features
The new sharps bins are also even more secure with tamperproof locks. They also feature a single action sharps disposal system – when waste is deposited, the maximum sensitivity tray is activated, and the safety tilt mechanism deposits the waste away from the user and stores it safely in the container.
Impact so far
Since establishing Sharpsmart in February, which was orchestrated by the estates and facilities team at SASH, the department has been working hard to ensure a smooth rollout of the new system, which included transferring a team of porters. The team effort has prevented 13,620 single-use containers from being manufactured, meaning that seven tonnes of single-use plastic will not be incinerated. The new products have also contributed to the collection of 1,000kg of metal materials for recycling.
“Our new reusable sharps bins are not just great for our planet; they are also playing an important role in helping our trust keep our patients and staff safe. Since we implemented the new, more secure sharps containers, instances of needle stick injuries have reduced.” – Micheal Simpson, Head of Health and Safety
A simple switch to help reduce plastic waste
The new containers are not only great due to their improved safety features. Now only the waste inside the containers is sent for disposal, and the containers can be repetitively used for up to ten years. The manufacturer estimates that this has the potential to reduce waste by over 25%.
The containers are also stackable so once filled they can be safely stored before collection. Another great benefit is that there is no additional packaging required for transport, this again reduces the generation of further waste.
“At SASH we are committed to reducing our use of plastic and the amount of plastic waste we generate as set out in our Green Plan. Our new reusable sharps containers support us to streamline processes and pathways, to reduce waste and create a more sustainable NHS.” – Michael Brownjohn, Waste Manager
“The transition to Sharpsmart reusable containers has gone really smoothly due to the hard work of the waste team at SASH.” – Guy Wing, Contract Manager – Sharpsmart
Sharpsmart also have an innovative system to dispose of the contents. Instead of incinerating our sharps waste, it is shredded and then disinfected & sterilised in an autoclave, before becoming refuse derived fuel (RDF). Sharpsmart estimate that this process reduces emissions by half in comparison with conventional incineration.
Guy also explained that anyone interested in training on how to use the new system should contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The Sharpsmart website also has a host of further information, as well as a handy how-to guide.