It’s one of the cheapest investments you will ever make in the ethical future of the horse industry: and it’s less than five dollars in cost. It looks like a pretty simple little red box; but it’s not. It even has a simple name: Sharps. But it performs a very important job in your all-important equine health scheme.
A Sharps Container is a must in your barn and your trailer if you do many miles and overnights away from home. A Sharps Container is where your used needles and blades must be placed immediately after use. There is no other option. But you probably don’t know that – because you've likely never been told that. You've probably never had that explained to you.
Medical professionals recommend Sharps Containers
All medical professionals, clinics, hospitals, doctor’s offices, dentists, veterinarians, etc., use Sharps Containers. And what the horse industry hasn't been told, hasn't been educated on, is the fact that every horse owner who gives their own shots, injections, vaccinations, and uses their own scalpels, should also be using their own Sharps Containers. And more and more horse owners and handlers are giving their own shots. They just don't know what they are supposed to do with the used sharps after they're done with them.
Sharps Containers not only gather in one place the dangerous little pointed stabbers, and protect the humans in the immediate area from being poked, but they also keep any traces of the blood, tissue, potential infection, germs, viruses, and bacteria contained, and they contain leftover traces of the drugs themselves in and on the needles. This in and of itself is a wise and useful function to protect both yourself and others.
Properly designed Sharps Containers are next to impossible to retrieve items back out of by their clever and unique lid design. So they are pretty safe and foolproof. Sharps Containers are pretty much always a bright red or orange hue for ease of recognition.
How to properly dispose of your Sharps Containers
But the most important function of a Sharps Container is what happens to it when it becomes full and needs to be disposed of. And this is where the legal, ethical, and totally safe part of the whole deal kicks in: a Sharps Container can only be disposed of in Medical Hazardous Waste Systems.
Just like you shouldn't be throwing loose needles and scalpels in your household waste basket or trash can, your normal residential routine, you cannot use that system to dispose of your Sharps Container either. To do so would find you in abuse of the law. It must be disposed of in a legally operated medical waste service – one who is trained and licensed in the proper handling of such materials.
Some people hang up at this point in the process, but there shouldn't be any concern with this part of the responsibility. Access to the legal medical waste system is more available than most people realize.
Every medical related business that also uses needles, scalpels, and sharps, is contracted with a medical waste provider. These businesses are similar to most traditional waste companies, except that they specialize in medical waste collection, and the safe and legal further disposal of those products and equipment.
In addition to Sharps Containers, medical waste businesses handle other hazardous medical waste such as blood, tissue, body parts, other body fluids, infectious materials, and surgical by-products. Businesses such as mortuaries also use medical waste services. These services are actually more prevalent than most people realize, they just aren't as visible on main street America.
So horse owners and handlers have more access, in a secondary sense, to medical waste services than they realize. Likely the most common place for an equestrian to take his or full Sharps Containers for disposal is their local veterinary clinic. But the local medical clinic or hospital can also be a common and useful place to drop off Sharps Containers.
Some places may charge a couple of dollars for accepting these receptacles, but most should accept them free of charge if you are a regular customer of theirs. Even if you have to pay a couple of dollars, it will be well worth the cost to be sure that your sharps and waste are being handled correctly.
Why should we dispose of Hypodermic needles safely?
There has been a growing concern at many recycling facilities across the country for the safety of their workers. Escalating numbers of waste management workers who have to sort through and handle trash, and especially recyclables, have been getting personal injuries, to the hands mostly, from needles, dangerous blades, and potential drug and disease contamination.
Most people remember the past headlines of several decades ago when medical needles, sharps, and contaminates were washing up on American beaches – and children and innocents were being punctured and cut by some nasty stuff that was washing up from the ocean. The medical community as a whole took a black eye, and set out with determination to clean up their act.
Now it’s our turn to clean up our act as personal handlers of needles with our equine partners. It’s time for horse owners and the rest of animal agriculture to realize that we've been left behind the curve of responsibility, and need to get our act together before we find ourselves in the headlines as poor guardians of our country’s safety.
A simple red box, clearly marked for Sharps; a nominal price, and a partnership with a local veterinarian, medical clinic, or hospital, and we can fix or hopefully even avert a black eye on the equine industry. EquiMedic USA sells a one quart sharps container for $3.75. That size should get most horse operations through for many months, or even a year or more. Invest now; do your part for a safe and ethical outcome, and the future image of this horse industry.