Don’t Get Stuck: Syringes and Recyclables Don’t Mix

(Wampsville, NY – Jan. 2013Syringes (2)) What would you do if you stepped barefooted on a dirty hypodermic needle? What are the chances you could become infected with human immunodeficiency virus, the hepatitis B virus or the hepatitis C virus? What would it cost for medical treatment, days off from work and a host of other variables?

These are questions the employees of the ARC Recycling Center and commercial trash haulers ask themselves every day because, more and more often, residents are placing their used syringes – “sharps” – in everyday recyclable containers like soda bottles, laundry detergent bottles, etc., and these syringes are ending up on the floor of the county’s recycling center on Buyea Road.

There are 19 people working at the Madison County ARC Recycling center on Buyea Road. Every day, they must be on the lookout for recycled items containing used hypodermic needles. Why? Because some of the residents of Madison County are not putting their used syringes in the proper biohazard containers.

Madison County, the Department of Solid Waste and Sanitation and the employees of the ARC Recycling Center are asking that you do the responsible thing: place all used syringes in bright red biohazard containers.

DO NOT place syringes in recyclable containers.

The bright red biohazard containers are FREE for the asking at all pharmacies in Madison County – all one has to do is ask and they will be handed a free container. For more than 15 years, Madison County has provided the biohazard containers to area pharmacies in an effort to keep used syringes out of recyclable containers destined for the recycling center where they have the potential of injuring or infecting one of the workers.

Sharps and recycling don’t mix – they should never be placed in recyclable containers.

There are a host of reasons to keep syringes or sharps out of recyclables; the first and foremost reason is the possibility of injury to those who work in the ARC Recycling center and those in the trash collection business. All of these people are at risk if used syringes are placed in your recyclables rather than being placed in a free biohazard container.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposures to blood and other body fluids occur across a wide variety of occupations. Healthcare workers, emergency response, public safety personnel and other workers can be exposed to blood borne pathogens through needle stick and other sharps injuries, mucous membrane and skin exposures.

The pathogens of primary concern are HIV, HBV and HCV. Workers and employers are urged to take advantage of available engineering controls and work practices to prevent exposure to blood and other body fluids.

The CDC estimates that about 385,000 sharps-related injuries occur annually among health care workers; however, as outlined above, those working in recycling centers and trash collectors are also at risk when sharps are placed in the wrong containers.

The red biohazard container alerts everyone who comes in contact with it to what is inside. But those working at the recycling center or as trash haulers are not expecting to find used needles in recyclable containers.

The cost of a sharps injury can be a compelling reason to use safer sharps practices. One sharps injury can cause a number of direct and indirect costs for employers and employees. Some of the direct and indirect costs include loss of employee time, cost of tying up staff to investigate the injury, expense of laboratory testing, cost of treatment for infected staff and cost of replacing staff.

The importance of proper disposal of used syringes cannot be over stated, said Director of Solid Waste and Sanitation James A. Zecca.

For more information, call the Sharps Hot Line at 800.721.2208.

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