Initiated through the One and Only Campaign by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the “One needle, One syringe, One time,” plan of action seems like a public health savior, amiright?
This simple protocol could potentially eradicate the risk of acquiring new diseases through infected needles from previous users. Unsafe reuse of infected syringes has resulted in over 100,000 accidental cases of Hepatitis and HIV infection in the U.S. over the past decade. Conservative estimates hold that three billion needles or syringes accumulate each year in the U.S. in homes or other unofficial sites. Needle disposal regulations are only enforced in official health care settings, posing the danger of infectious disease exposure to many family members and solid waste collection workers.
I came across a policy that predated this medical waste obsession by a significant margin in the form of the Sharps Removal Program from Indiana, initiated over a decade ago in 2001. The premise involves a free collection service to remove needles from trash bins by issuing free containers specifically for needle disposal, which are then freely disposed of in nearby drop of centers.
Enter the green health-care crowd: highlighting the 7,000 tons of medical waste accumulated in the U.S. each day, amounting to 2.5 million tons per year. Their platform often includes the use of recycling and reusing syringes – based on the existing belief that any outbreak of disease from recycling injectable equipment has ever occurred when properly sterilized.
The two initiatives: Clean and Green have obvious similarities in desired outcomes, but differ in their approaches. The Sharps Removal Program might just have the best of both worlds: the Clean – with the unique disposal system to reduce risk by recycled syringes, and the Green – using the safe disposal method as an opportunity for proper sterilization for reuse and recirculation.
But can the leading Clean and Green mechanisms for the needle afterlife consolidate now?