‘Sharps’ disposal rules govern needles

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DEAR SUN SPOTS: Could you please tell me where I can dispose of used needles? I have to have a shot every other week and insulin once a day.

I have been keeping the needles in a coffee can, but it is getting full and I can’t put it into the regular trash.

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You have helped me in the past, so I hope you can now. Thank you. — No Name via email

ANSWER: According to the Internet, the handling of needles is referred to as “sharps disposal.” However, that was about as much as Sun Spots learned online.

She called just about everyone she could think of, including the police, and found no local source of disposal. Several people told her to recommend the following:

Place your needles in a container that will not break or rust, such as a heavy plastic laundry detergent bottle. When it is full, close it securely, tape the lid and throw it in the garbage.

For the final word on this topic, Sun Spots talked to Scott Austin at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. He said the disposal method outlined above is allowed for individuals, but not for any commercial enterprise. Doctors, hospitals, veterinarians, tattoo parlors, etc., must adhere to biomedical disposal rules. There is a mail-back program many of them use, but it is quite expensive, so individual households are exempted.

Scott said there are some hospitals in northern Maine that accept the needles and that Caribou has a pilot program at its police station, but he did not know of any similar program in L-A.

Do not throw loose needles in the trash. Many waste workers have been stuck. Imagine how they worry while undergoing medical tests to find out if they have picked up a disease such as hepatitis or HIV.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I am writing to provide further clarification and caution regarding the Jan. 25 column pertaining to the proper disposal of medications and drugs. Several days ago I went to a local drugstore to obtain an envelope for proper disposal of expired medications. I had done this a few years ago.

The pharmacy clerk said they no longer carried these envelopes and suggested I put my meds in a coffee can with coffee grounds and toss them in the trash. I was shocked and informed them this advice is the reason our landfills and waters are polluted. I went to another drugstore where I was able to purchase a disposal envelope.

This didn’t help either as the directions inside the envelope state refusal of prescription drugs. Therefore, I am keeping my meds until April 28 when I can dispose of the entire batch properly. — Alfreda Fournier, afournier4@roadrunner.com

ANSWER: As the answer to the Jan. 25 question noted, the envelope mail-back program was only “while supplies last,” as the program is temporary. Currently, for Androscoggin County, envelopes can be obtained by contacting The Medicine Shoppe (783-3539) and Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice (777-7740), both in Lewiston.

For more information about the program, visit www.safemeddisposal.com or call 1-866-ME-RX-RID (1-866-637-9743).

As Alfreda noted, there will be a take-back medicine day on April 28. Locations have not yet been announced.

Alfreda is also right about not throwing medicine in the trash or flushing it down the toilet. April 28 is not that far away, so save your medicine for then.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I have three Edward Little yearbooks to give to anybody who would want them, 1979-80 and 1981.You may call and leave a message. — Mary Ann, 782-4219

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I have a St. Dom’s 1967 yearbook for anyone who would like it. — Ernie Ashton, dashton@bates.edu, 784-7257

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be e-mailed to sunspots@sunjournal.com.

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