Innovation That Matters

The NeedleSmart technology will save the NHS more than £120 million in Government plastic tax | Photo source NeedleSmart

Needle disposal system makes it easier to recycle medical sharps

Health & Wellbeing

The system helps to prevent injuries and reduces the carbon footprint of healthcare

Spotted: Sales of single-use plastic products jumped dramatically when the COVID-19 pandemic began as people attempted to minimise the contact they had with others. As the pandemic stretched into multiple years, the use of such plastics continued to grow, driven by healthcare needs and the introduction of vaccines. Increased waste presents a sizeable challenge for healthcare systems around the world that are trying to reduce their carbon footprints.

Used needles are one of the most important types of waste, as they require exceptionally careful disposal practices to avoid injuring or infecting clinicians. UK technology company NeedleSmart has developed a system that reduces the risk of injury while also making it easier to recycle otherwise single-use products. Called the NeedleSmart Pro, the sharps disposal system sterilises used needles in less than a minute and eliminates their ability to hurt someone by blunting the end of the metal.

A small, portable machine, the NeedleSharp Pro heats the inserted needle to 1300 degrees celsius and squashes the hot metal into a small sphere. The sphere is then cooled, and the clinician tosses the used sharp into the usual bin. The system saves time by reducing the need for clinicians to carry used needles to central disposal sites, and the blunted needles allow hospitals to double the volume of waste that each used sharps bin holds.

Since the used needles are sterilised by the time they end up in the waste bins, the metal and plastic can more easily be separated to better facilitate recycling. Managers can connect the machines to online inventory systems in order to more easily track ordering requirements. And a handheld version of the NeedleSharp system helps people with long-term conditions such as diabetes and travelling healthcare professionals stay safe.

NeedleSmart is not the first innovation spotted by Springwise that aims to tackle the issue of clinical waste. In New Zealand, another startup remanufactures single-use medical devices so they can be reused safely.

Written by: Keely Khoury



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