By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Residents who toss used medical needles in the household trash could face $250 fines after a pair of Lee County garbage collectors recently got punctured.
County ordinance prohibits discarding syringes in the trash because of the potential hazards, including the physical pain of being stuck as well as a risk of co-ntracting a disease like HIV/AIDs.
The fine is $250 per offense. Though officials haven’t strictly enforced it in the past, recent incidents could change that.
“We hadn’t started fining at this point, but it looks like we’re going to have to,” said Lee County Solid Waste Director Terry McGlaun. “We’ve got people putting needles in the garbage, and they don’t go there.”
Other disposal methods are urged instead, including placing the used needles in medical boxes and taking them to one of several area drop-off locations. Lee County drop-off sites include Jim Bain Pharmacy in Tupelo or the Saltillo Fire Department.
But that doesn’t always happen. McGlaun said his employees routinely see needles in the trash – sometimes before it’s too late.
A county trash collector was injured by a needle in December while opening the lid on a residential garbage can. Another was wounded in January while picking up a trash bag in front of a house.
The punctures occurred even though both men wore heavy-duty gloves, said County Administrator Sean Thompson.
Both employees required medical attention, mostly to ensure they didn’t contract an illness from bodily fluids on the needles.
Mississippi residents use an estimated 30 million needles each year to self-administer medicine for problems like allergies, diabetes or HIV, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality.
Although putting needles in the trash isn’t illegal in Mississippi, individual communities such as Lee County can – and have – imposed their own local restrictions and fines. Tupelo doesn’t have one in its ordinance, but its trash hauler, Waste Management, has joined several safe needle-disposal efforts nationwide.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.