How to dispose of ‘sharps’ when travelling

One of the issues facing a person with diabetes when they travel is how to dispose of sharps.

Sharps are any medical item that can puncture or cut the skin. Sharps common in managing diabetes include syringes, pen needles and lancets (finger prickers).

It’s important for the health and safety of all people who handle medical or general waste that used sharps are properly disposed of.

Appropriate disposal reduces the risk of contamination and disease transmission to those who handle this type of waste.

When disposing of sharps, it’s ideal to use a yellow sharps container that can be bought from any pharmacy, some council facilities or specialist supplies stores.

These travel cylinders come in a range of small sizes that are convenient to store in a small bag along with insulin and unused needles. This could be a pen needle pocket container that can fit in your pocket.

You may like to go to your local community health service as they often have a sharps container supply department that can give you a container at no cost (they usually require your postcode).

To dispose of sharps at home, a strong container made from thick, heavy plastic with a tight-fitting or childproof lid is handy. An example is a used laundry detergent container.

The use of glass, tin, aluminium or soft drink containers is not recommended as a method of disposal of sharps as they are not shatter or puncture proof.

The Australian Department of Health advises that the ability to dispose of sharps in domestic waste is governed by each state’s local legislation.

In Queensland, it’s recommended that you check with your local council waste disposal section as some councils allow medical sharps to be disposed of in domestic waste, (not recycling), if sharps are in approved or hard plastic walled containers.

The recommended safe and accessible places to dispose of medical sharps in Australia are participating pharmacies, public hospitals and council sharps disposal bins found in public amenities or some community health centres.

Be aware that some of these facilities will only accept sharps disposal if they are in yellow medical sharps containers.

If you are on the go, website is a great resource to find locations for safe disposal of sharps.

It requires a current location, for example a town, and then will provide a list of safe sharps disposal locations on a map.

A Safe Sharps app that can be downloaded on a smart phone is available through Google Play or Apple App store.

There is also the option to advise the website of unlisted sharps disposal locations so that the website can provide up-to-date information.

It’s important to be aware of rules about carrying sharps when travelling on an airplane.

Airlines in Australia have various policies regarding travelling with medical sharps in carry-on luggage.

You will require some form of identification that confirms your medical condition, such as a doctor’s letter, a prescription or even your National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) card.

Other requirements to allow medical sharps onboard flights include the accompanying medication to be clearly labelled and packed with medical sharp, and restricting the amount of sharps packed to what’s appropriate for the duration of the flight.

The key to travelling with diabetes is to be prepared.

Check ahead with your local destination information service or accommodation facilities regarding appropriate sharps disposal services, have relevant documentation packed if travelling by air, and enjoy a hassle-free trip.

Join our community of over 33,000 people living with diabetes