Written by Amy Piser
23 May 2024

Breaking Down Sharps Containers: What Is a Sharps Container?

Sharps containers are indispensable for safely discarding sharp medical items, ensuring the protection of healthcare workers and the broader community.


1 / Understanding Sharps Containers

2 / Disposable vs. Reusable Sharps Containers

3 / The Importance of Proper Waste Management and Sharps Disposal

4 / How To Use a Sharps Container Correctly

5 / Regulations and Recommendations for Waste Management & Sharps Disposal

6 / Choosing the Right Sharps Container for Your Facility

7 / Daniels Health: Your Trusted Sharps Disposal Service

8 / Maximize Safety With Expert Sharps Waste Management 

Understanding Sharps Containers

Sharps containers are essential tools in healthcare settings, designed to safely dispose of sharp objects that could potentially cause injury or spread infection. But what is a sharps container? It's a puncture-resistant, leak-proof container intended specifically for the collection and disposal of medical sharps. 

Types of Sharps

Medical facilities use a variety of sharp instruments in their daily operations. Understanding the broad category of materials considered "sharps" is crucial for effective waste management. Besides the commonly known needles and syringes, sharps extend to include laboratory slides, glass items that can break during medical procedures, and any other medical equipment that is sharp enough to penetrate the skin.

Disposable vs. Reusable Sharps Containers

In the realm of healthcare waste management, it's essential to make responsible decisions when choosing between disposable and reusable sharps containers.

Disposable Sharps Containers

Disposable sharps containers offer the convenience of single use. These are particularly suited for smaller healthcare settings or places with lower volumes of sharps waste, where the benefits of disposable small sharps containers—such as ease of use and disposal—align with worker needs.

Reusable Sharps Containers

On the other hand, reusable sharps containers, which are emptied and sanitized for re-use, present an eco-friendly option that can be more cost-effective over time. Large healthcare facilities especially often prefer reusable sharps containers due to their durability and the high volume of sharps waste they manage. However, the selection of the appropriate container type must consider factors such as the facility's waste generation rate, storage capacity, and the specific risks associated with improper disposal.

The Bottom Line

Whether opting for the convenience of disposable sharps containers or the sustainability of reusable options, the priority remains the same: ensuring the health and safety of healthcare workers, patients, and the community. 

The Importance of Proper Waste Management and Sharps Disposal

Sharps containers are indispensable in the fight against the spread of bloodborne pathogens such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV. These pathogens can be transmitted through needlesticks and cuts from contaminated sharps, posing a significant risk to healthcare workers and patients alike.

Proper use of sharps containers significantly reduces these health risks. Regardless of container choice, the aim is to ensure that all sharps are immediately contained after use, without the need for manual handling that could lead to exposure. Engaging a professional sharps disposal service further enhances safety by managing the disposal process from start to finish, ensuring compliance with all regulatory standards and minimizing the risk of injury and accidental exposure to harmful pathogens.

How To Use a Sharps Container Correctly

Knowing how to use a sharps container correctly is fundamental to minimizing healthcare-related risks and ensuring a safe environment for both healthcare providers and patients. For example, it's crucial to avoid overfilling a sharps container. 

This is because overfilling increases the risk of needlestick injuries, as it can force sharps to jut out of the container's opening. Instead, it's recommended to start using a new container before the current one reaches its fill line. Better yet, work with a container designed with inbuilt safety trays to restrict from overfilling while ensuring full efficient use of the container. This practice is essential, whether dealing with small sharps containers or larger, reusable sharps containers. We also have videos displaying how to open and close a sharps container safely. 

Regulations and Recommendations for Waste Management and Sharps Disposal

Navigating the regulatory landscape for waste management/sharps disposal is critical for healthcare facilities, ensuring the safety of staff, patients, and the public. Several key organizations, including the FDA, OSHA, NIOSH, and DOT, outline regulations and recommendations governing the use of sharps containers and disposal practices. These regulations are designed to minimize health risks associated with the handling of medical sharps, such as disposable syringes, needles, and other sharp instruments, by setting standards for the design and proper labeling of sharps containers. The use of sharps containers is regulated to ensure they are safe, secure, and effective in preventing accidental needlestick injuries and the spread of infections.

Choosing the Right Sharps Container for Your Facility

Selecting the right sharps container is essential for the safety and efficiency of your healthcare facility's waste management. Key considerations include the volume of waste produced, the types of sharps used, disposal technology, and your facility's operational needs. Smaller facilities may benefit from compact, small sharps containers, while larger institutions might require the capacity and cost-effectiveness of larger container sizes. Opting for no-touch disposal methods and choosing containers with puncture-resistant, leak-resistant walls and secure closures enhances safety by minimizing exposure to sharps and infectious materials.

For a detailed guide on selecting the appropriate sharps container, complete with safety and compliance checklists, explore our resources: Choosing the Right Sharps Container and our Sharps Container Checklist

Daniels Health: Your Trusted Sharps Disposal Service

Daniels Health is proud to provide healthcare facilities around the US with industry-leading Sharpsmart sharps containers and sharps disposal services. Our expertise and education support facilities in adhering to strict disposal practices, enhancing safety and compliance with state and federal regulations. Innovations like touch-free sharps containers underscore our commitment to advancing safety and efficiency in sharps disposal service. What's more, is that the Daniels Health sharps disposal system is also tamper-proof once locked. 

Maximize Safety With Expert Sharps Waste Management

Understanding what a sharps container is and how to use it correctly is crucial for healthcare safety. Facilities must prioritize effective sharps waste management to protect staff, patients and even children. Daniels Health offers expert guidance and tailored solutions for sharps disposal service, ensuring facilities meet the highest standards of safety and compliance. Contact Daniels Health for innovative and effective sharps waste management strategies today.




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Amy Piser

Amy Piser

Clinical Waste Educator

With 26 years experience working in healthcare, Amy has implemented sustainability initiatives for over 100 hospitals across the United States and brings unique practice and compliance expertise to healthcare waste management.