Bin set up to handle used medical needles
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
January 3, 2013
Throwing used medical needles in the garbage isn’t illegal, but neither is it responsible.
There is no landfill in Jackson Hole, and sanitation workers handle garbage repeatedly as it is sorted and hauled to Idaho Falls, according to Heather Overholser, the director of Teton County Solid Waste and Recycling. That makes random needles a threat.
No one has been stabbed by a disposed needle, but the hazard is there, Overholser said in announcing a new needle-disposal system pioneered by her department.
A receptacle for used needles has been installed outside of the Teton County Public Health building. The bin is safer for the public and sanitation workers, said Mike Dart, environmental health supervisor at public health.
“We’re mainly talking about syringes,” Dart said. “Diabetes is probably the biggest one.”
Those suffering from the disease often give themselves insulin injections.
“With all of the exposure that sanitation workers have to waste, having used medical sharps in the trash is dangerous,” Overholser said. “This was a proactive decision.”
Doctors’ offices often asks patients to throw out used needles in plastic containers, but that’s not always enough protection, she said.
“Once it goes into a trash compactor truck, a milk jug can bust open easily,” Overholser said.
The health department asks that syringes be placed in plastic containers before putting them in the receptacle.
A biohazard waste company will empty the receptacle regularly. The bin cost $2,200.
St. John’s Medical Center contracts with a waste removal company to dispose of scalpels, needles, razors and other sharp medical objects.