The sharps disposal device invented by Han Pham is not only a great device, it has a powerful story behind it. We've been waiting to tell the story for a while! The Yellowone cap was one of the first ten devices featured on the Maternova Innovation Index and as part of that early set it was inspiring to us. At the time we discovered the device it was stuck at a stage that hinders so many entrepreneurial designers-- Han Pham had won a design challenge but could not find a manufacturer who would make fewer than 10,000 at a time. Her design was even featured in a 2005 MOMA exhibit.
But to back up to the origins of this idea, Han Pham grew up in Vietnam and her family was forced to flee by boat from Saigon. She and some of her family were rescued by a German humanitarian ship and transferred to a refugee camp in Singapore. She says "It was there I was stuck by a dirty needle from a tetanus vaccine. After three months in the camp, we were united with three of my elder brother and sisters in Denmark."
Fast forward many years later when Han Pham became an industrial designer based in Denmark. Working with an MSF physician, Dr. Annelie Ginzel, Han Pham developed a solution to the ominpresent danger of needle sticks and the lack of safe sharps disposal. Her solution combines a yellow plastic cap that locks onto a soda can and creates a sharps disposal from these two simple parts. The heavy plastic cap snaps onto the soda can and creates an permanent lock so that needles can be inserted but can't make their way back out. Instead of hundreds of loose, infected needles poking out of a garbage bag or strewn on the ground, this ingenious little device creates a contained vessel that gets disposed of as a whole.
While many groups look to harness the Coca-cola supply chain in innovative ways, this one surely breaks a lot of molds. Health center staff currently use a discarded soda can as a makeshift sharps disposal anyway--the Yellowone Cap adds another level of safety to this design. The duo researching this elegant, simple industrial design did testing in Somalia, Kenya and South Africa. We have been following the progress of the device for over three years now. The risk for many designers is that they simply can't get past the prototype stage and make their designs a reality. For Han Pham, the risk of NOT succeeding was simply too high.
The great news is that after several years of persistence Han Pham has found a manufacturer and Maternova is now able to offer this device on its marketplace.