Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center will no longer accept used syringes, needles or lancets, also known as household sharps, from patients after Nov. 30. Household sharps are typically used in the home for insulin injection. They are also used for administering medications to treat other medical conditions, including the prevention of blood clots, and may become contaminated with blood-borne diseases including Hepatitis B and C, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
“The potential exists for the “sharp” to infect someone who comes in contact with the needle, if it is contaminated with a disease,” according to RWBAHC health officials.
These items should also not be disposed in a household garbage container. Used sharps left loose can hurt sanitation workers during collection, at sorting and recycling facilities, at landfills, or become lodged in equipment, forcing workers to remove them by hand. Children, adults and even pets are at risk for needle-stick injuries when sharps are disposed of improperly at home or in public settings.
Do not place household sharps in containers with a BIOHAZARD label on the outside of the container in the household garbage. Biohazard material is not allowed in household trash, according to hospital officials.
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities must follow strict federal and state guidelines for waste management. By taking in household sharps, the facility risks violating some of these rules. The good news is that these rules don’t apply to private citizens.
Most individuals are conscious of the environment and look for ways to be good environmental stewards, whether it’s recycling or properly disposing of potentially hazardous materials.
So how can a person legally and safely dispose of household sharps? At home one can obtain an empty plastic laundry detergent container (or empty bleach container). Do not store used sharps in glass bottles, soda bottles, milk jugs, aluminum cans or coffee cans. Place used or expired household sharps into the container and keep lid tightly closed at all times. Label container with the words “used sharps” and “do not recycle.”
Once the bottle is full, ensure the lid is tightly closed and tape it. Take the container to the Cochise County Transfer Station, located on State Route 90, and let the attendant know about the sharps for disposal. According to hospital officials, transfer personnel will ensure it is disposed of as a hazardous waste, keeping it out of the main waste stream.
One can also use the mail-back program. Used sharps are placed in special containers which are then mailed in accordance with U.S. Postal Service requirements. They are then sent to a collection site for proper disposal. This is a better option due to keeping the sharps out of the waste stream altogether, but it comes with a fee. Fees can vary, depending on the size of the container.
Several manufacturers offer a variety of products that allow one to destroy used needles at home. These devices either sever, burn or melt the needle and allow the user to discard the syringe or plunger in the garbage. These devices can reduce or eliminate the danger of sharps entering the waste stream. The prices vary according to the type of device and manufacturer.
Examples of such devices include a needle cutter which is a device that automatically stores the cut needles and can hold up to 1,500 needles (approximately two years worth). The remaining syringe or pen can be placed into the regular trash. The container that holds the needles can be placed into a household container and turned in to the Cochise County Transfer Station.
There is also a destruction device available that incinerates needles and lancets and can be used at home to destroy needles immediately after use. They are small, portable devices that use a few seconds of high heat to melt needles and reduce them to BB-size pellets. Previously used only in healthcare facilities, these devices are now available in smaller, less expensive models for home use.
Learn more about safe community needle disposal at, http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/industrial/medical/med-home.pdf.