Safe disposal of waste (including sharps)

HTM 07:01 Waste Management Guidance contains the regulatory waste management guidance for NHS England including waste classification, segregation, storage, packaging, transport, treatment and disposal.

Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 outline the regulatory requirements for employers and contractors in the healthcare sector in relation to the safe disposal of sharps.


Healthcare (including clinical) waste:

  1. Any waste which consists wholly or partly of human or animal tissue, blood or other body fluids, excretions, drugs or other pharmaceutical products, swabs or dressings, syringes, needles or other sharp instruments, being waste which unless rendered safe may prove hazardous to any person coming into contact with it.
  1. Any other waste arising from medical, nursing, dental, veterinary, pharmaceutical or similar practice, investigation, treatment, care, teaching or research, or the collection of blood for transfusion, being waste which may cause infection to any person coming into contact with

Hazardous waste:

Waste that is harmful to human health or the natural environment; the Hazardous Waste (England) Regulations 2005 Annex 1 specifically lists items that are considered hazardous waste.

Table 1: Categories of waste and segregation at source 

Clinical waste as (a) above Black stripe (tiger) bag Land fill
Clinical waste as (b) above: non-infectious (offensive) Orange (sharps box) For treatment
Category A Hazardous as described above Yellow (sharps box) For incineration
Domestic Black bags Land fill

Safe waste disposal at care area level:

Always dispose of waste:

  • immediately and as close to the point of use as possible; and
  • into the correct segregated colour coded UN 3291 approved waste bag or container (sharps box).
  • Liquid waste, eg blood must be rendered safe by adding a self-setting gel or compound before placing in an orange lidded leak proof
  • Waste bags must be no more than 3/4 full and no more than the UN approved weight; and use a ratchet tag/or tape (for healthcare waste bags only) using a ‘swan neck’ to
  • Store all waste in a designated, safe, lockable area while awaiting uplift. Uplift schedules must be acceptable to the care area and there should be no build-up of waste
  • Local guidance on management of waste at care level, eg domiciliary settings should be

Sharps containers (for safety devices, refer to section 1.10)

Sharps containers must:

  • have a handle and temporary closure mechanism, employed when box is not in use
  • be disposed of when the manufacturers’ fill line is reached
  • be labelled with point of origin and date of assembly and disposal. Where re-usable sharps containers are used, organisations must have a protocol in place to assure themselves of safe use and

Further information can be found in the safe disposal of waste literature review.

Manual contents

Chapter 1: Standard infection control precautions (SICPs)

Chapter 2: Transmission based precautions (TBPs)


Download a PDF copy of the National infection prevention and control manual for England