Gurnee residents who want to safely dispose of syringes or other medical waste don't need to look beyond village hall.
Through Gurnee's new trash collection contract with Waste Management Inc., a free MedWaste community kiosk is available inside the village hall entrance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
Gurnee's assistant to the village administrator, Erik Jensen, said the kiosk has been used often since debuting this month. He estimated the green bin was half full Friday with used needles, syringes and lancets in quart-sized rigid plastic containers for what are called "sharps."
Jensen said community safety is a reason to for residents to bring their medical waste to village hall instead of placing it in or near regular garbage.
"You're always afraid of loose sharps just getting in the trash," Jensen said. "I think most people that are using sharps right now know to use the containers and seal them up, or use something that's rigid and plastic to contain the needle so it doesn't prick somebody else.
"But let's say that container breaks or your trash falls over -- suddenly it's not just a threat to the waste industry. Anyone who's nearby that happens to step on it accidentally, it could be a threat, too."
Sharps is a term for medical devices with points or edges that can puncture or cut the skin, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The category includes hypodermic needles and syringes used to administer medication; lancets or finger stick devices to collect blood for testing; needle and tubing systems for infusing intravenous and subcutaneous medicines; and connection needles used for home hemodialysis
Improper disposal of used needles and other medical sharps presents a health risk to the public and waste workers, EPA officials say. Used needles can transmit serious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.
Jensen said those who use the MedWaste kiosk at village hall should bring needles and the like in a standard sharps container -- sealed with masking tape -- available at pharmacies, medical supply companies and some health care providers. He said village hall will have a limited supply of free containers.
The EPA estimates 3 billion needles and other sharps are used in U.S. homes annually.
Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said the MedWaste bin is another example of the village's effort to be environmentally friendly. She said another recent initiative receiving frequent use by residents is a textile recycling bin at Gurnee's west side fire station No. 2 on Dada Drive.