Each year on National Drug Take Back day, Americans can visit designated areas, such as police stations, to dispose of expired and unwanted medications — no questions asked.
Needles used to inject medications for conditions such as diabetes, or for illicit drug use, and other “biohazard waste” are typically not accepted.
This year, during the event on Saturday, health professionals will provide a space in Middletown, Delaware for residents to dispose of sharps for the first time.
Outside of medical facilities, people are supposed to place used needles into puncture-rigid containers and throw them in the trash. However, sharps can puncture those containers if they’re not strong enough. And sometimes, the needles are improperly thrown into the recycling.
Matt Georgov, who co-owns Choice MedWaste in Newark, said patients frequently call his company with concerns about how to dispose of sharps.
Medical waste disposal companies like his are only allowed to service medical facilities.
“They don’t feel completely comfortable putting used discarded needles for themselves, a family member, or even their pets with diabetes — they don’t feel comfortable putting them in the trash can,” Georgov said.
“They don’t want trash collectors getting hurt, someone at the landfill getting hurt or a neighborhood child or animal going through the trash and getting stuck with a needle,” he said.
Needle scratches can put someone at risk for contracting infectious diseases such as HIV. And recycling and trash workers are put in danger when needles aren’t disposed of properly, or puncture a container.
“Trash collectors reach in and pull the bags up by hand,” Georgov said. “They’re not necessarily expecting a needle to be in there and that needle could go through the bag and through their glove and possibly spread disease to them.
“The most common practice is putting the needle in a laundry detergent bottle,” he added. “But sometimes people forget it has needles in them and they go in the recycling.”
That’s why Georgov teamed up with a community organization called the Southern New Castle County Communities Coalition, which provides drug prevention education.
Together, they organized the sharps disposal event, which will be held this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Middletown Police Department. The police department also is hosting Drug Take Back Day, and will accept medications as well, and is the first and only location residents can also dispose of their sharps in Delaware.
Just as Drug Take Back Day was designed to help prevent prescription drug abuse and avoid polluting waterways by flushing unwanted pills down the toilet, Delaware Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long said having a place for people to safely dispose of unused needles will also help protect physical health and the environment.
“Each year, we have about 7.8 billion sharps disposed of across our country,” she said.