Each year, approximately 90,000 people in the State of Mississippi administer to themselves at least 30 million injections for medical problems such as diabetes, allergies, arthritis, migraines, HIV, and Hepatitis C. Most of these needles, collectively referred to as “sharps”, are simply disposed of by flushing down the toilet or throwing them in the trash at home, in the workplace, or other public places. This practice poses a potential risk of needle sticks to garbage collection employees, sewage treatment plant workers, janitors, and in some cases to the general public. Even where a used syringe may be recapped, there is the very real possibility that the cap could fall off before the syringe reaches its final disposal destination. While throwing syringes in the home trash is not illegal in most states, including Mississippi, there are alternative options for disposal which are safer and provide more protection to public health and welfare.
Scores of needle stick injuries have been reported by waste management employees in Mississippi in recent years, and it is believed that many more needle stick injuries go unreported. Such injuries cost waste management companies thousands of dollars for medical testing. Even where victims are not infected with potential viruses, they usually undergo tremendous stress and worry.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality recommends that home syringe users inquire into the availability of the following options for sharps disposal:
1. Local Drop-Off Programs. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has established a network of household sharps drop-off collection stations. Most of these collection stations are located at local pharmacies and fire stations. There is no cost to the home user for this disposal service. Click on the link below to find a drop-off collection station nearest to you. If you use a local drop-off collection station, you must make sure your sharps are safely contained and sealed. Recommendations for safely containing your used sharps may be found by clicking HERE
Pharmacies, fire stations, and other businesses or local government offices are encouraged to register their location as a household sharps drop-off collection station. Additional guidance for establishing and operating a collection station may be found by clicking the following link:
Guidance for Establishing and Operating Collection Stations for Home-Generated Sharps
REGISTRATION FORM FOR SHARPS COLLECTION STATION OPERATORS
Persons or businesses interested in becoming a household sharps collection station may register by downloading and completing the following form:
Download a registration form here
2. Sharps Destruction Devices. A variety of devices exist which clip or burn the needle off and allow the user to then dispose of the plunger in the trash. Such devices may be purchased at your local pharmacy, or your pharmacists can order you a clip. The clip can be purchased for less than ten dollars and will hold 1000 or more needles. When the device is full, you can take it to a local sharps drop-off station in your area, or you can seal it by wrapping in heavy-duty tape and disposing in your trash. The burn devices are more expensive, but may well be the most cost-effective option over an extended period of time.
3. Mail-Back Programs. There are mail-back programs that are available where the user orders a special container from a sharps disposal company and mails the container when full to the company for proper disposal. While this program requires some expense to the user, it provides a reliable and convenient means of safe disposal. A partial list of companies that provide convenient mail-back services is provided below:
If none of the above options appear viable to you, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality strongly encourages you to follow safe containment practices before disposing of your used needles and lancets in the trash. See below.
Recommendations for Containing Your Used Sharps
1.NEVER throw loose sharps in the garbage or flush down the toilet.
2.Place sharps in a thick-walled, sturdy plastic container such as one used for bleach, liquid soap, washing powder, antifreeze, fabric softener, paint thinner, etc. Rinse the container three times to make sure it is free of any residual product before using. Do not use soft plastic containers (soda or milk jugs), glass containers, or coffee cans. The container should have a tight-fitting, screw-type lid which can be used to seal the sharps when full. Also, most local pharmacies stock OSHA-approved sharps containers that sell for less than ten dollars.
3.Label the container with the words “SHARPS” and “DO NOT RECYCLE”.
4.Seal the container with heavy-duty tape before disposing.
The following biomedical waste disposal companies provide assistance and support in the implementation of the Mississippi Household Sharps Disposal Program by picking up used sharps at local drop-off collection stations throughout the state:
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality salutes and says thanks to each of these companies
For more information regarding safe disposal options for home generated sharps,
please contact the
Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality,
Special Wastes Section, 515 East Amite Street, P. O. Box 2261, Jackson, MS 39225-2261.