Posted on June 5, 2015

According to, approximately 20 percent of the population struggles with trypanophobia or a fear of needles. For the most part, this intense terror is irrational, but it can prevent these individuals from getting essential medical treatment. Therefore, the majority of trypanophobics put their health at risk by avoiding blood tests and medications that require injections.

Unfortunately, the anxiety over needles that workers in the recycling industry experience is very real. This is because needles are often carelessly thrown away by people who use these medical instruments at home. Syringes and lancets among other types of sharps are relied on to treat conditions such as diabetes, hepatitis and allergies. In addition, some illegal drugs are administered by needles as well. The wide variety of reasons for needle use has increased how many sharps are inappropriately placed in regular garbage.

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In fact, the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal calculates that Americans discarded almost 8 million sharps in 2011. This is triple the number from a decade earlier. Therefore, the amount of needles that are thrown out with general rubbish continues to grow, which puts those who handle waste in greater danger.

The Challenges of Proper Disposal

Because each state has different rules for sharps disposal, it can be confusing to know how to get rid of used needles. Some states have mail-back programs or household hazardous waste events to gather old sharps. Other states suggest placing used needles in rigid containers such as detergent bottles and then putting them in the trash.

With all of the inconsistencies, however, one rule remains the same. Every state discourages including used needles with recycling. It’s a health hazard to recyclers and to the environment.

But understanding where to put used needles can be a challenge. Not only do state rules differ, but the way sharps are controlled also varies, depending on the location. Unlike home use, hospitals are highly regulated in their sharps disposal. Special types of containers and treatment facilities have been established in order to prevent used sharps from causing contamination and disease. There is no real equivalent when it comes to home use of sharps. That’s why so many needles are found in recycling facilities.

The Threat to Recyclers

Many people who throw needles into their recycling bins don’t realize the potential harm they could cause workers who handle this waste. But the reality is that bloodborne pathogens from needle sticks can create serious problems. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 40,000 sharps-related injuries occur to hospital personnel each year. This figure does not even count the amount of wounds recycling workers sustain due to improperly placed sharps.

Employees at recycling facilities are especially at risk when they remove unacceptable items from conveyer belts. The industry has implemented protective mechanisms such as puncture-resistant gloves and automatically shutting off the conveyer to pull out sharps. But these best practices can also lower productivity and increase recycling costs.

Additional expenses arise concerning medical treatment when a sharps injury occurs. The CDC projects that every needle injury can cost between $71 to more than $5,000 for initial treatment and follow-up visits. More bills may come in the future if transmission occurs or litigation becomes necessary. Furthermore, time off and emotional costs can enhance the overall price of needle stick injuries in the recycling industry.

The best way to keep recyclers safe and prevent such astronomical costs is to understand that trypanophobia is real for these handlers. By spreading the word about proper sharps disposal both at home and in health care settings, recyclers won’t have to be so afraid of needles anymore. MedPro offers some easy mailback systems that may be right for you.

MedPro's Mail Back Systems