City to start needle collection program

The city is prepared to begin to collect needles and other medical “sharps” by July 1, 2012 when a new state law takes effect prohibiting the improper disposal of syringes and lancets in solid waste.
The state has established the new law to protect the environment and the health and safety of trash and recycling facility employees from accidental puncture by medical needles and lancets that could result in disease infection. The law also prohibits disposal of medical sharps in recycling programs.
Nationwide, millions of people use syringes and lancets to manage their health care at home.
Health Director Michael Suckau said last night at the Health Board session that the city is prepared to launch a sharps collection point at City Hall and that funding for the collection program will be included in the department’s 2013 fiscal year budget, which begins July 1, 2012.
Currently, Westfield has no program to collect sharp medical instruments used by residents in treatment of a number of medical conditions, for injections, and to draw blood for testing.
Suckau said the city would establish a collection kiosk where residents can drop off sharps containers. Those containers are currently available at drug stores and will be available at the Health Department later this summer.
Suckau said residents should not use other containers, such as coffee and soda cans, glass or plastic bottles, that could be compromised during collection.
The city has assessed other sharps collection methods, including a prepaid mail-back program that has a cost of between $20 and $60, depending on the size of the collection container.
“The kiosk program works best for us,” Suckau said. “So we will put the initial funding in our budget to get the program going, but will establish a revolving account using the money the nurses bring in for their services for future funding.”
Suckau said the department will sell one-liter sharps containers at just above cost as “another convenience for people” and to encourage proper disposal methods. Suckau said the one-liter containers will fit more efficiently into the 18-gallon kiosk collection boxes than other sharps containers available commercially.
The Center for Disease Control has established a national goal to eliminate the disposal of sharps in trash or in public locations, such as parks and streets, and to prevent the reuse of sharps, a practice that can result in transmission of infectious disease.

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