Written by Megan Chamberlain
18 Jun 2020

The Pyramid Effect in Sharps Containers

Alright healthcare professional friends, this is a short one and about phenomenon that occurs within your single-use sharps bins. You may think that what resides in your sharps bin is simply that, sharps. But beware, an enemy of efficient fill capacity may lurk withinthe Pyramid Effect.


Let’s jump right in with a visual, what is the Pyramid Effect?

Definition: When sharps waste is disposed of in a container with an inefficient opening that is not designed to ensure the sharps land flat (horizontally) in the container, the sharps will vertically and diagonally pile atop each other – creating a pyramid shape. This shape will grow in central height and fail to utilise all the volume within a sharps bin. This inefficiency will cause the container to appear full and be changed before it has truly met the fill capacity levels – causing more turnover and cost for disposal.

Another great visualisation that may help your understanding of this effect and why it’s so important to avoid it are cardboard boxes. We live in the golden age of delivery where we can receive practically any items to our doorstop in a smattering of all sized corrugated cardboard boxes – I’m looking at you Amazon.

Now, I’m sure you, dear reader, are an A+ person and always break down your boxes before putting them in the recycling. Why do you do this? Because you understand that putting an empty, yet fully constructed, cardboard box in the recycling is a waste of space! Especially when your entire flat building shares one recycling bin (okay that may just be my own personal grievance).

So why use a sharps bin that isn’t uniquely engineered to dispose of sharps in a way that realises the full fill volume of the container? 


How the Sharpsmart reusable sharps container prevents the Pyramid Effect

The same way we combat all other safety or efficiency challenges with healthcare waste management – through innovative design!

Most of our containment systems are engineered with a distinctive, gravity-balanced tray. That may sound intimidatingly tech, or at least it did to me when I first heard about it, but it’s rather simple. It means our horizontal tray is designed to detect the lightest of sharps that could be placed on it (even a butterfly); and once detected, it automatically tilts the sharps waste back into the container where it will drop to the bottom and lay horizontally.

Let’s take a look, to the right, at our Sharpsmart container for reference:

Pretty self-explanatory, yeah? This will also prevent anyone from continuing to put sharps in the full container as it blocks the opening. Once the Sharpsmart reusable container is full, it can be sealed with the permanent side locks and stored in the soiled room until your service date. From your clean room you can pull a clean, empty Sharpsmart container and easily place it where the full one was.

We see many facilities that are still using a sharps bin with a circular opening at the top – and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s an okay design, it works! But it’s not the most efficient.

When using a sharps bin with a circular opening at the top, as you lay down the initial base layer of sharps, every item you drop in after that will inherently stagger towards the center of the product – creating a pyramid and wasting space.


Get horizontal, save money

The faster your sharps container appears to be full the faster it will most likely be changed by staff. More container turns typically means higher cost of disposal. Sharpsmart designs solutions with horizontal tilt-trays that help you maximise the fill capacity of your sharps waste containers. If you’d like to see if these solutions would make a real difference in your facility, and in your clinical waste disposal spend, contact us!


Click here to view the 20+ safety features of the Sharpsmart


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Megan Chamberlain

Megan Chamberlain

Compliance and Digital Solutions Specialist

With a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things and a quick wit, Megan was the recipient of the Sharpsmart Pun-Master Award 2017 and is the go-to girl for all things compliance.