SOURCE: Waste Management

Waste Management

October 09, 2015 11:39 ET

Local Officials Join Recycling Industry to Raise Awareness for Safe Disposal of Sharps Containers

New Law Designed to Protect Recycling Workers From Needles, Syringes or Other "Sharps"

GRAYSLAKE, IL--(Marketwired - Oct 9, 2015) - A coalition of government, business and community leaders came together to raise awareness around new state law regarding safe disposal of used medical needles and syringes. The new law is designed to prevent the improper disposal of medical syringes, hypodermic needles and other injection medications (collectively "sharps") which pose a very serious and costly hazard to families, communities, businesses and the individuals that handle the collection of recyclables.

Approximately one out of every 12 households includes someone that uses sharps. Unfortunately, well-intentioned residents are accidentally contaminating the recycling stream by placing needles or sharps containers in recycling carts where they can break open at the recycling facilities putting workers in danger. Senators Linda Holmes, Melinda Bush and Martin Sandoval joined Representatives Ann Williams, Rita Mayfield, Laura Fine and Thaddeus Jones to sponsor legislation prohibiting the mixing household generated sharps with any other material intended for collection as recyclables earlier this year. Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill into law this summer. The new law was championed by Waste Management of Illinois, and gained the support from other organizations including the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Manufacturers Association, National Waste & Recycling Association and the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County.

"We thank the legislators that sponsored this legislation in the Senate and House for recognizing the importance of protecting recycling workers safety and we urge all households to not mix their sharps containers with recyclables," said Lisa Disbrow, spokesperson for Waste Management of Illinois, Inc. "Every year billions of needles, syringes and lancets are used across the country and it is important we in Illinois do our part to make sure we are disposing of them properly. When those sharps end up in curbside recycling carts they pose a serious threat to our employees and workers."

First introduced by Senator Linda Holmes in February of this year, the new law, which amends the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, prohibits the mixing of household generated sharps with other items intended for collection as a recyclable material by a residential hauler. "Throughout the state, many people use sharps to treat all kinds of medical conditions in the home; and raising awareness of how to ensure proper disposal is the intent with this law," said Senator Linda Holmes. "Improper disposal poses a danger to everyone."

Senator Melinda Bush, whose legislative district is home to Waste Management of Illinois's Grayslake recycling facility employing over forty-five workers, regularly see sharps come across the recycling line also signed on as a sponsor. "This new law protects workers like those at the Waste Management facility in Grayslake, but it also protects public health in Illinois," commented Senator Melinda Bush. "Medical waste is something that affects us all. Ensuring proper disposal of sharps means less risk of infection or contamination for everyone."

On the House side, Representatives Rita Mayfield and Ann Williams were chief co-sponsors of the bill. The bill also required the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to update its guidelines and public educational materials to reflect the new law for the proper disposal of household generated sharps.

"The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has already issued new fact sheets and guideline identifying several types of safe and convenient disposal methods for people who give themselves medical injections," said Lisa Bonnett, Director of Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. "We urge households to visit our website for information regarding safe disposal guidelines."

The new law received quick support from other organizations who promote safe handling of sharps including the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association. "Our fire service personnel safely handle medical needles and syringes daily in our treatment of patients and are keenly aware of the danger of improper disposal. As was noted during the legislative hearings, our residents often have disposed their sharps in an improper manner and by doing so pose a risk to the first responders or to anyone whom may come in contact with them," said Tim Sashko, executive director for the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association. "Thanks to Senator Holmes and the other legislators, the practice of mixing sharps with recyclables will discontinue, providing safer work environments."

For more information regarding safe disposal of sharps material, visit: www.epa.state.il.us

ABOUT WASTE MANAGEMENT
Waste Management, Inc. based in Houston, Texas, is the leading provider of comprehensive waste management services in North America. Through its subsidiaries, the company provides collection, transfer, recycling and resource recovery, and disposal services. It is also a leading developer, operator, and owner of landfill gas-to-energy facilities in the United States. The company's customers include residential, commercial, industrial and municipal customers throughout North America. To learn more about Waste Management visit www.wm.com or www.thinkgreen.com.

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