Winneshiek County landfill bans medical sharps in safety move

NEAR DECORAH, Iowa (KWWL) – How you dispose of sharps like medical syringes has changed for Winneshiek County and some surrounding areas.

In the middle of 2018, the Winneshiek County Solid Waste Agency passed a resolution banning sharps from going into the Winneshiek County Sanitary Landfill in a move to make working conditions safer. The ban went into effect January 1, 2019.

Tons and tons of trash go into the landfill every day from all over. Landfill Director TJ Schissel said it amounts to about 100 tons a day.

Schissel said sharps and other biohazards pose a risk for not only the workers but also other who visit the landfill.

“So then we got thinking that’s not safe. The public comes out here on the tipping face. They could step on one, trip and fall and put it in their hand.”

That’s when the ordinance banning sharps came about.

Pharmacist and owner of Donlon Pharmacy Matthew Maker said he hoped it will promote getting rid of items like needles in a responsible manner.

“Don’t think ‘oh I’ll just bury them out back or put them in the trash.’ Everybody has to handle that trash. Those workers, we depend on them, so we don’t want to put them at risk either.”

Maker said sharps should be put in a proper sharps container available at most drug stores or even a detergent bottle until they can be properly disposed of in a public box like the one outside the Winneshiek County Public Health office.

Winneshiek County Public Health Administrator Krista Vanden Brink said they have already emptied the box, which holds 30 gallons, three times since it was installed.

She said they are looking into possibly adding more boxes in other communities in the county.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources allows sharps in landfills, but they must be in a container that is sealed and labeled accordingly. However, the final decision to accept the containers comes down to each individual landfill.



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