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Disposing of waste medicines Posted on 10 Feb 2020

Waste Medicines

Waste medicines should not be disposed of in regular bins or waste collections. Unwanted medicines including tablets and capsules, creams and ointments, liquids, inhalers, and ampoules should be returned to a pharmacy for disposal. If there are controlled drugs the pharmacist may ask the returner to sign the CD register.

Sharps, including unused sharps should be disposed of separately. Some pharmacies may accept sharps as part of arrangements with NCC substance misuse services. Please check with your pharmcy first.


All patients who are prescribed sharps should be provided with a sharps bin. Examples include needles and syringes, pre-filled syringes such as enoxaparin and lancets. Sharps should only be disposed of in a designated sharps container.
Sharps bins may be disposed of in several ways.

  1. It may be possible to return the sharps bin to the health service that provided it e.g. some outpatient diabetes clinics will accept sharps bins from their clients.
  2. Drug and Alcohol services accept sharps bins for their clients at Corby, Kettering , Northampton and Wellingborough and may also have additional arrangements via NCC.
  3. Borough/District Council collection service. The seven Borough and District councils in Northamptonshire are responsible for providing a special collection service for sharps from people’s homes. Sharps will need to be disposed of in a sharps bin. Collection will need to be arranged. Details are available from the council websites (see overleaf). Some councils make a charge for this service.

Sharps which are contaminated with cytotoxic or cytostatic waste eg used for methotrexate administration should be disposed of in a sharps bin with a purple top. They should usually be returned to the hospital providing treatment or to the homecare service. Otherwise separate collection will need to be arranged with the local authority.
Appliances and other medical waste

Unused catheters, stoma bags and packaging can be disposed of in household waste.

Contaminated waste.

Waste contaminated with body fluids. E.g. used catheters, incontinence pads, plasters, stoma bags and non-infections dressings can be double bagged and disposed of in household waste (not recycling). Large quantities eg from care homes will be regarded as offensive waste and separate collection will have to be arranged with the local authority. If this waste is infectious then it should be disposed of in a special orange bag. Separate collection will need to be arranged with the local authority or healthcare worker.


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