DEQ spreads word on how to safely dispose of sharps

Stevensâ?? teenage son was diagnosed with diabetes in May. She says they just recently filled up a large plastic bottle of used sharps, and that they had a hard time figuring out how to safely get rid of them.

Medical â??sharps,â?? are needles, syringes and lancets that are used for checking blood to monitor someoneâ??s glucose levels. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, one out of every 20 people in the United States has diabetes and uses an average of two sharps a day.

But how are they safely disposed of?

One Grand Traverse County mother, Brooke Stevens, says itâ??s a little harder than she thought, and that she got multiple answers, from multiple resources.

Stevensâ?? teenage son was diagnosed with diabetes in May. She says they just recently filled up a large plastic bottle of used sharps, and that they had a hard time figuring out how to safely get rid of them.

â??When my child was diagnosed we were told to put them in a plastic container and dispose of them properly,â?? said Stevens. â??I remember them doing that. I guess I didnâ??t realize disposing of them properly would be such a challenge to figure out.â??

Stevens started her search with the Grand Traverse County Health Department, who says they do not accept used sharps. Someone there suggested she try a couple of pharmacies in the area.

â??The first pharmacy was not able to accept them, and they suggested the sheriffâ??s department to find out whether or not they have a resource from any sharps they may be using at the jail or anything,â?? said Stevens.

Unfortunately the Grand Traverse County Sheriffâ??s Department doesnâ??t take them either, and told Stevens to try a clinic in the area, but that clinic would not take them either.

Finally, Stevens was directed to Integrity Home Health Care who told her that they would take them for free, but only Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. â?? 4 p.m..

â??We can certainly do it but it just seems like itâ??s probably not convenient for everyone,â?? said Stevens. Certainly people who work business hours, thatâ??s the only time that theyâ??re open.â??

Anita Carlson, the Marketing Director for Integrity Home Health Care says they werenâ??t aware that their hours were inconvenient for some people. Carlson says if people call to express the need for extra hours, theyâ??ll look into extending them somehow.

â??We certainly are willing to work with the community,â?? said Carlson.

Customers can call (231) 946-3000 to make suggestions.

Thompson Pharmacy in Traverse City is another location that will take used sharps, but it will cost you $4.95. Something Stevens says could be hard for some people who already have trouble with expensive medical bills.

Owner Mark Thompson says they have to charge their customers because it helps them to pay for the cost of the company coming to pick up the full boxes and to properly dispose of them. Each container holds about 25 disposing bins. Thompson says the company comes to pick up a box every month, and that it costs them several hundred dollars.

â??I think it would be a lot better if there more, however like I said itâ??s so cost prohibitive, I donâ??t blame anyone for not doing it,â?? said Thompson. â??Weâ??re constantly contemplating not doing it either but itâ??s like our customers have nowhere to go.â??

Thompson says they donâ??t require people to use a special sharps container, but they prefer it because itâ??s the safest way to dispose of the sharps. Customers can also purchase the special containers at Thompson Pharmacy.

Grand Traverse County Recycle will also accept used sharps from residents but only during certain times of the year. Employees there say they have special collection days for household and hazardous waste about 4 times a year where people can register for the event, and take things like sharps to be properly disposed of.

Disposing of used sharps in the trash is convenient, but not the safest alternative.

American Waste says they will not accept used sharps, while Allied Waste Services: A Republic Services Company says they will.

Allied Waste says the sharps must be sealed in a thick plastic container such as a laundry detergent bottle, and that the cap must be sealed with tape.

Representatives say they will not accept special sharps containers.

While the trash is an option for some people, the Department of Environmental Quality says people should only use that as a last resort.

â??Once they go into a residential municipal truck they get crushed and when they get crushed, it doesnâ??t matter how strong they are, they pop open and expose waste handlers to the syringes at the landfill site when theyâ??re dumped,â?? said Andrew Shannon, from the Medical Waste Regulatory Program.

Munson Medical Center does not take used sharps from community members.

"I think it needs to be something that is convenient for people to do it," said Stevens. "But I also think that it's really important that we do take care of our environment and not throw things in that are dangerous."

Here is a list of links provided by the DEQ for how to safely dispose of sharps: