Cytotoxic Waste

Cytotoxic waste must be disposed of to avoid its harmful effects after exposure.

Cytotoxic waste is waste associated with cytotoxic drugs which contain chemicals that are toxic to the cells. This includes materials, equipment, and residue that are contaminated by cytotoxic drugs.

Cytotoxic drugs, which are also called antineoplastics, are usually administered to people with cancer and diseases like multiple sclerosis because they prevent the replication and growth of cells. Since the abnormal cells causing these illnesses grow rapidly and uncontrollably, aggressive medication such as cytotoxic drugs are needed to impair and eradicate them quickly.

People who work in healthcare settings are at risk of being exposed to cytotoxic waste. Cytotoxic waste may be inhaled, ingested, absorbed by the skin or through the skin. Patients who take cytotoxic drugs excrete bodily fluids that are contaminated with cytotoxic waste. They must be considered contaminated for up to seven days and must take the highest precautions. Relatives, nurses, and caregivers must be properly protected when handling excreta and must dispose of it properly.

Although they have the capacity to cure, cytotoxic drugs affect the body in ways that cannot be controlled. They have as much capacity to destroy healthy cells as the unhealthy ones. Because of their inability to target specific cells, they produce a lot of side effects.

Here are some examples of materials that come into contact with cytotoxic drugs and are considered as cytotoxic waste: syringes, vials, gloves, needles, respirator masks, personal clothing and equipment, air filters.

The handling of cytotoxic drugs poses a lot of danger, from preparation of the drug, to the administration to the patient, to its disposal. Because of its toxicity, cytotoxic waste must be segregated and disposed of properly

Definition of Sharps & Sharps Waste

Sharps is a medical term for devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut skin. They may be used at home, at work, and while traveling to manage the medical conditions of people or their pets, including allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, and psoriasis.

Sharps waste is any used needles, syringes or surgical instruments generated from healthcare activities, medical research, veterinary care, and drug administration.

Examples of sharps include:

Needles – hollow needles used to inject drugs / medication under the skin

Syringes – devices used to inject medication into or withdraw fluid from the body

Lancets / fingerstick devices – instruments with a short, two-edged blade used to get drops of blood for testing. Lancets are commonly used in the treatment of diabetes.

Auto Injectors, including epinephrine and insulin pens – syringes pre-filled with fluid medication designed to be self-injected into the body

Infusion sets – tubing systems with a needle used to deliver drugs to the body.

Connection needles/sets – needles that connect to a tube used to transfer fluids in and out of the body. This is generally used for patients on home dialysis.

How to Handle Sharps

If you use sharps during the course of your work, there are some basic procedures for safe handling:

Do not recap or re-sheath needles or lancets.

Scalpel blades should be removed and disposed of using artery forceps.

Do not ask for a sharp item to be taken from you or to be disposed of by someone else.

Do not walk unnecessary distances with a sharp in hand.

Dispose of sharps in an appropriate sharps container and never in a waste bin or plastic bag.

Dispose of sharps immediately after use, not later, to avoid needlestick injuries.

When disposing sharps in a container:

Place the sharp end in first, that is, pointing it away from the body

Drop the item in rather than push

Do not place hands inside the container

Sharps containers should be replaced when sharps level is towards or at the designated fill line.

Sharps containers should be sealed after use.

Ensure that the sharps container is permanently closed ready for disposal.

Sharps Disposal Best Practice

Used sharps should be immediately placed in a sharps disposal container. These containers are made of puncture-resistant plastic with leak-resistant sides and bottom. They also have a tight fitting, puncture-resistant lid.

Never place loose needles and sharps that are not placed in a sharps disposal container in household rubbish bins, public rubbish bins or recycling bins. Never flush needles and sharps down the toilet as this can put rubbish and sewage workers, cleaners, housekeepers, household members, and children at risk of being harmed.

Pet owners who use needles to administer medicine to their pets should follow the same sharps disposal guidelines used for humans.

When full, sharps containers holding contaminated sharps must not be placed into general rubbish.

Cytotoxic waste containers are required to have a top lid in purple colour with a picture of the cancer cell clearly displayed at the front of the container, with the words ‘Cytotoxic Waste’ shown in bold lettering.

All containers and plastics bags are to be visibly yellow and are to be marked with the international biohazard symbol and the words “Contaminated Waste” symbol, and words are to be easily readable.

It is recommended collection of full sharps containers and other hazardous waste is arranged through an accredited waste disposal company. These companies can safely collect and correctly sterilise or dispose your sharps waste at a thermal destruction or autoclave facility.

Types of Medical Waste

Sharps waste is a form of biomedical waste composed of used "sharps", which includes any device or object used to puncture or lacerate the skin. Sharps waste is classified as biohazardous waste and must be carefully handled.

Biohazard/Clinical and related waste are classed as waste that has the potential to cause injury, infection, and harm to the general population. Sharps, human tissue, laboratory, and animal waste resulting from medical, dental, or veterinary research or treatment can cause disease. Other related waste from sources specified by a health facility falls within this category.

Related waste is defined as waste within the biohazard/clinical waste stream which constitutes or is contaminated with cytotoxic drugs, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. Definitions include all waste contaminated with human or animal matter from any patient care area, surgery, health or transport facility, and any autopsy, surgical, pathological, dental, cosmetic, veterinary, or laboratory procedure. It includes bone and other tissue, swabs, bandages, blood samples, and disposable surgical hardware.

Cytotoxic waste is waste associated with cytotoxic drugs which contain chemicals that are toxic to the cells. This includes materials, equipment, and residue that are contaminated by cytotoxic drugs.

What to do for Sharps Injuries

If you are accidently stuck by a person’s used needle or other sharp, appropriate action should include:

Calming the injured person.

If there is no foreign body lodged, the wound should be cleaned with antiseptic.

Wash the exposed area right away with water and soap or use a skin disinfectant antiseptic such as rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer.

Follow these same instructions if you get blood or other bodily fluids in your eyes, nose, mouth, or on your skin.

If bleeding occurs, a dressing would also be applied.

If part of a hypodermic needle is lodged, it should not be removed and treated accordingly to avoid further penetration. The needle should be collected using gloves, tongs and a sharps container.

In the event of a workplace accident, locate and advise your nearest first aid officer. An incident report form should be completed and forwarded to your Occupational Health and Safety Coordinator.

The injured should be advised to go immediately to a doctor or attend the Accident and Emergency section at your nearest Hospital for further treatment. If necessary, an ambulance may need to be called.

Reference: "National guidelines for the Management of Clinical and related wastes", National Health and Medical Research Council, Canberra.

Why SharpSafe Medical Collection Containers

Plascare has been dedicated to health and environmental protection for the past 30 years. As a fully Australian family owned and operated business, we are nimble and responsive to the needs of our customers. Our healthcare background in hospital, community and aged care settings ensure we have the right knowledge in all things related to sharps waste.

We are the licensed manufacturer and distributor of Sharpsafe disposable plastic sharps containers throughout Australia. Sharpsafe is the world’s first purpose designed disposable plastic sharps container since 1979, and continuously leads the market with innovative improvements to safety, practicality and reliability. As a manufacturer and distributor, we have the ability to provide exceptional service at very competitive prices to our customers.

We supply new, strong, safe disposable sharps & cytotoxic collection containers. Sizes range from 200ml to 65 litres for sharps (yellow) collectors & for cytotoxic (purple) collectors from 1.8 litres to 24 litres.

Our products are quality manufactured from high density polypropylene that is puncture, fluid, impact & solvent resistant. They are safe to use, handle and transport, and offer complete security once permanently sealed via the final closure feature. The space saving design optimises your storage capacity, and the containers are non-toxic during incineration. The Sharpsafe 5th Generation products are also environmentally friendly, made from at least 30% recycled plastic.

The Sharpsafe sharps container range allows easy disposal of sharps and provides added security for both the user and the general public.

The Clinisafe Cardboard Clinical Waste Container Range is suitable for solid and soft clinical waste. It is not suitable for sharps and any non-packaged liquids. The CliniSafe Plastic Clinical Waste Container Range is fluid tight and is suitable for the soft disposal of non-sharps clinical waste.

The Protected Access range provides added security for both the user and the general public and discourages the use of the sharps container for non-sharps waste, thus avoiding unnecessary waste disposal costs.

Why Use Sharps Containers

Sharps have the potential to cause injury and are likely to be contaminated, posing a risk of infection or illness if they penetrate the skin. Therefore, it is essential to follow safe procedures when using and disposing of sharps. Sharps waste should be stored in designated sharps waste containers.

Used needles and other sharps are dangerous to people and pets if not disposed of safely because they can injure people and spread infections that cause serious health conditions. The most common infections are: Hepatitis, Hepatitis C, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Sharps disposal containers are installed to safely hold sharp items, which can include syringes, lancets, infusion sets, connection needles, auto-injectors and more. Essentially, anything that can present the risk of spreading blood borne pathogens. Sharps are used in the management of many common medical conditions in the community such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, allergies, renal failure and infertility. They might also be used for the administration of illicit drugs.

As such, sharps containers are an important part of Australian workplace health and safety, as well as public health and safety. These containers are commonly installed in commercial businesses such as tattooists, medical centres, chemists, acupuncturists and vet surgeries. Sharps disposal containers should also be installed in any commercial bathrooms that members of the public use, including shopping centres, airports, community centres and public bathrooms.

Safe sharps disposal is important whether you are at home, at work, at school, travelling, or in other public places such as hotels, parks, and restaurants.

Standards Australia

An approved sharps bin meeting Australian Standards AS: 4031, AS: 4261 should be used for needle collection. Premises requiring disposal of used sharps and infectious waste, can purchase sharps containers from medical suppliers and an arrangement can be made with an approved company for the regular disposal.

Collection containers must comply with AS4031/92 with regard to constituent material, that is, they are ecologically acceptable and will not produce emissions or residues on incineration or disposal where appropriate into landfill.  Other requirements include product & manufacturer identification marks, biohazard symbol (per AS1319), disposal instructions & safety advice, capacity indicator, fill-line warnings, assembly instructions, and re-order numbers.  Information must be clearly printed in black on yellow. The sharps container must be visibly yellow in colour, indicating that the waste contained herein is a biohazard. Containers not identified as ‘sharps’ receptacles are intended to be used for ordinary medical waste.

Australian Standards are voluntary Standards unless codified in legislation by appropriate authorities, e.g. Local government, State, and Commonwealth.  A Standard cannot demand compliance by itself.


AS4031:1992 – non-reusable containers for the collection of sharp medical items used in healthcare areas.

AS/NZS3816:1998 – New strategy for clinical and related wastes.

For further information about Australian Standard, visit the website


What is the difference between sharps waste and clinical waste?

Sharps and clinical waste often get used together, but they mean different things.

Clinical waste is defined as wastes generated in healthcare facilities or other facilities during the investigation or treatment of patients or research projects.

Sharps waste is any used object that is sharp and can lacerate or puncture skin.

Sharps waste can also be biohazardous and must be carefully handled. Common biohazardous sharps waste include hypodermic needles, disposable scalpels and blades, contaminated glass and certain plastics, and guidewires used in surgery.


How full should a sharps container be before emptying?
Sharps containers must only be filled to the marked line and closed immediately after this line is reached. The risk of injury is increased once the container is overfilled.


What do I do with a filled sharps container?
Once sharps containers are filled, follow the instructions on the container label to close and lock the container into its final closure state. Audible clicks can be heard to ensure a proper and safe closure. For individual use, filled sharps containers can be taken to your local pharmacy or council for disposal. For businesses that generate sharps waste, filled sharps containers need to be disposed of through specialised waste disposal services. This will typically involve incineration of the sharps container. It is important sharps waste is not disposed of the same was general waste as it poses a needle stick injury to public. Improper disposal could also lead to hazardous waste spreading into the environment at landfills.


How do I get rid of my sharps containers when its full?
Local council have their own needle exchange program that allow residents within their municipality to return filled sharps containers. Filled sharps containers can also be returned to pharmacies that participate in the Needle Exchange Program. Health care providers and other businesses that generate sharps waste need to engage with licensed contractors who specifically manage medical waste according to Australian laws and regulations. In choosing between waste disposal services providers, you can also seek out a reputable waste management company that will sterilise and dispose of the sharps waste according to legislative requirements and with a low environmental footprint.=


How do I get a new sharps container?
If you need a reliable solution for medical waste disposal, Plascare offers a broad range of solutions to help your facilities achieve the highest standards of safety and hygiene. With over 30 years of experience dealing with medical waste management, we are efficient and responsive to the needs of our customers. We provide high quality biomedical waste containers to leading experts in the healthcare industry for managing harmful medical waste in a safe, reliable, and cost-effective way. Contact us to learn more about our services and high-quality clinical waste containers.


Are sharps containers reusable?
While most sharps containers are single use, there are some sharps containers that are reusable. This involves special containers that allow contents to be unlocked and disposed of separately, and the containers are steam cleaned and reassembled for use. Disposable sharps containers are destroyed along with their contents which are discarded. This usually involves incineration. For every disposable container that is used, another new container must be manufactured as a replacement. The destroyed sharps containers will end up in landfill.


Are sharps containers recyclable?
While it may be possible to recycle plastic sharps containers, in reality it is not feasible option. The process of removing sharps from disposable sharps containers and sterilising the plastics requires far more energy and resources than incineration.


What’s the difference between yellow and purple sharps containers?
Yellow sharps containers are for the storage and disposal of biohazardous sharps waste such as needles used to give injections or pipettes used in laboratories. These sharps containers are marked with the biohazard symbol. Purple sharps containers are for the storage and disposal of cytotoxic sharps typically used in medicines for the treatment for cancer. For example, needles or syringes used to treat patients with cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs would need to be disposed into a sharps container with a purple lid. These sharps containers are marked with the cytotoxic waste symbol.


Can you dispose of razors in sharps containers?
Razor blades can go in sharps containers and disposed of with medical sharps. Never dispose of medical sharps in the landfill or recycling cart – they must be taken to special sharps locations in sharps containers.


What can and can’t you dispose of in a sharps containers?
Sharps disposal containers can be used to dispose of any object with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut skin, such as needles, syringes, lancets, auto injectors, infusion sets, and connection needles. Non-sharp biohazardous waste such as the syringe barrel, or caps and gloves, can be disposed in clinical waste liners. Proper waste segregation ensures that only biohazardous sharps waste is disposed in sharps containers and processed accordingly.


What are the requirements for sharps containers in Australia?
Single use sharps containers must comply with AS4031/92 which stipulates the integrity of the container, the appropriate labelling and strength of the unit to withstand any accidental spillages.


Should you recap needles before disposing into sharps container?
No, dispose of used needles straight into the sharps container, do not attempt to recap needles prior to disposal as this increases the risk of needle stick injuries.


What are the regulations regarding sharps containers in Australia?
Generators of community sharps should place them into an appropriate container prior to disposal to a community sharps disposal facility, unless placed in single syringe disposal units. The Australian Standard applying to personal use containers is AS 4939–2001: Non-reusable personal use containers for the collection and disposal of hypodermic needles and syringes.


Do sharps containers need to be wall mounted?
Sharps containers should be situated in a safe and secure place and not accessible to patients or visitors. In rooms or areas where sharps containers do not need to be moved, they should be wall-mounted near the point of use, that is, where the sharp is used. At no time should a sharps container be placed on the floor.


Which sharps container can I use for my diabetic needs?
The SharpSafe sharps container range from Plascare Australia includes a 0.6 litre plastic container with a petal opening. This provides an extra layer of protection by preventing any accidental sharps exposure. It is also lightweight and has a side handle for easy transportation. The final closure feature does not enable the container to be re-opened and therefore eliminates any further sharps exposure.


What is the Protective Access lid for SharpSafe sharps container products?
Protected Access allows easy disposal of sharps but provides added security for both the user and the general public. The wide horizontal aperture ensures easy disposal of large items and allows proportionally greater fill than similar vertical feed type openings.