With the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine, the demand for safe and inexpensive needle disposal is increasing

COVID vaccine disposal

An unintended consequence of COVID-19 has been an increase in new trash, from face masks, wipes and gloves to syringes now in use. With millions of vaccines introduced every day, disposing of needles safely and efficiently can be quite a task.

An unintended consequence of COVID-19 has been an increase in new trash, from face masks, wipes and gloves to syringes now in use. With millions of vaccines introduced every day, disposing of needles safely and efficiently can be quite a task.

The process of disposing of needles or “sharp” objects must follow certain guidelines. In Arizona these are described by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

“The main concern is to avoid hazards and to make sure people are not injured,” said Terry Baer, ​​director of solid / hazardous waste at ADEQ Waste Programs.

With millions of vaccines introduced every day, disposing of needles safely and efficiently can be quite a task.
(Stephanie Bennett / Fox News)

The most common disposal methods are grinding, burying, or autoclaving. The needles are cleaned with steam before disposal.

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“With a large number of such, it is important that companies have a variety of options,” said Baer.

Some companies are trying more environmentally friendly methods. According to OnSite Waste Technologies of California, the latest device can save time, money and resources by compressing up to 200 needles into one secure building block at one time. The company said 38 states are already using the method.

According to OnSite Waste Technologies of California, the latest device can save time, money and resources by compressing up to 200 needles into one secure building block at one time.

According to OnSite Waste Technologies of California, the latest device can save time, money and resources by compressing up to 200 needles into one secure building block at one time.
(Brad Barnes / OnSite Waste Technologies)

“We can treat all sharp object waste that is generated today directly on site and turn it into normal waste,” said Brad Barnes, CEO of OnSite Waste Technologies.

The company estimates that approximately 660 million syringes would be required to vaccinate the entire US population. If it were put end to end, it would create enough waste to wrap itself around the earth about 1.8 times. Your containers can condense needle waste by around 80%. The waste is treated with thermal heat so it can be safely thrown into the landfill.

“It takes about 3.6 million carbon emissions, we’re reducing that to about 200,000 levels,” said Barnes.

Coconino County in Arizona is the second largest country by land mass in the United States. Officials said disposing of all used COVID-19 vaccine syringes is an expensive task.

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“It would be thousands of dollars, if not tens of thousands,” said Wes Dison, Coconino County emergency management director. “For example, the sharp objects bins cost about $ 150 each, they’re one-time, they don’t come back, they leave with the organic waste and they never come back. We need to replace all of these.”

This is where Flagstaff-based Russell Mann, owner of Ponderosa Medical Waste Service, stepped in to help.

Mann is no stranger to the industry and has been removing medical waste for years, but the pandemic has left him busier than ever. After realizing the financial burden this could place on the county, he is offering his services for free and disposing of all used COVID-19 needles roughly twice a week.

“I can’t fire shots, I can’t do any of these things, but I can probably do what no one else can do and I can get rid of all these needles for you and I don’t charge. I live in this county, be part of this Community and am happy to get involved, “said Mann.

Flagstaff-based Russell Mann is helping dispose of all Coconino County's used COVID-19 syringes free of charge.

Flagstaff-based Russell Mann is helping dispose of all Coconino County’s used COVID-19 syringes free of charge.
(Stephanie Bennett / Fox News)

After picking up the approved guidelines from the Fort Tuthill vaccination site in Flagstaff, Mann drives them three hours east to one of the few landfills in Arizona that discards untreated medical waste. Since he has a refrigerator truck, he can hold the needles for 96 hours before needing to be unloaded.

At the moment, Mann said he would help until June or until the county says he is no longer needed. The most important part of all of this, he said, is making sure the needles are cared for and are not in danger.

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“It’s a close community and that’s a great part of it and there are always people helping one another,” said Mann. “If all these people are going to work out here. I’ll work too, I don’t mind.”

Needles and glass vials cannot be recycled, but other waste, including packaging and cardboard boxes, can be returned to the manufacturer.

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