- The Mid Michigan Waste Authority (MMWA) has launched a needle-disposal campaign, "Be Smart with Sharps," which is intended to keep trash and recycling collectors safe when collecting potentially hazardous waste.
- The education campaign aims to teach needle-users to dispose of sharps in empty rigid plastic receptacles, write "SHARPS" on the receptacles and dispose of them in the trash — not recycling.
- The program will also encourage refuse collectors to notify MMWA when they observe loose needles in curbside bins.
According to MMWA, 9 million Americans use needles at home to manage medical conditions, as reported in MLive. However not all users dispose of these needles in the proper manner, putting thousands of workers at risk of being harmed by the hazardous medical waste. This was a topical issue in March when Manchester, PA-based Penn Waste fielded an all-time high record of hypodermic needles in its waste stream, causing Penn Waste to be on high safety alert. However, there was not much that could be done about the issue other than increasing awareness to workers and educating the community on proper disposal.
"As the U.S. population ages, more Americans are using needles at home and generating medical waste in their apartments and houses," said SWANA CEO David Biderman in an email. "Waste workers, in both collection and post-collection, are at increased risk, and we need to better educate our customers and employees about these risks."
Seeing that the improper disposal of sharps is continually being reported across the nation, it is clear the industry needs to improve educational efforts or push for disposal regulation. In Michigan, MMWA's educational campaign is being advertised at pharmacies, dialysis centers and health care clinics, which are strategic spots to target the correct audience.
"We are concerned about the health and well being of our collection workers, but this really is a broader public safety issue," said MMWA Administrative Director Katharine Tessin as reported in MLive. "Sharps can carry communicable diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis, and if they are loose in curbside trash or recycling, they are a danger to everyone who is passing by."
Companies like ACT Environmental Services are offering new technologies to disinfect medical waste including sharps, however more action will need to be taken to keep the community in-line and prevent curbside injuries on a regular basis.