Used sharps disposal program helps deal with on-farm biohazards

Ontario farm groups have developed a program to help pork farmers safely dispose of used sharps.  

Kathy Zurbrigg, Ontario Pork industry outreach co-ordinator, says there are currently few feasible options for farmers to responsibly dispose of their used sharps.

Sharps, like needles and scalpel blades, can be used deliver vaccines or pain-control medication.

However, once they’re used, what do farmers do with them?

Sharps disposal is challenging

Many municipal dumps “will no longer accept sharps and the pick up programs that disposal companies offer are not scaled for small farm use,” Zurbrigg says.

In addition, many veterinary clinics don’t collect full containers of used sharps for disposal due to biosecurity concerns.

Bruce Kelly, Farm and Food Care Ontario program manager, says since porcine epidemic diarrhea virus struck in Ontario in 2014 there’s “more sensitivity with anything going back to the vet due to possible cross-contamination.” In a sense, he says, they're a biohazard.

Furthermore, options open to the general public, such as taking used sharps back to drugstores, aren’t open to farmers.

Ontario Pork took a leading role in co-ordinating the program that gives farmers a safe, economical option for used sharps disposal.

Drop-offs

The group worked with Farm and Food Care Ontario and several hog veterinary clinics to deliver the program last year.

Farmers could drop off their containers of used sharps at no charge at the Ontario Pork Congress in June.

Zurbrigg says Ontario Pork set up an outdoor booth staffed by its employees, along with employees from Farm and Food Care Ontario. Farmers could drive up to the booth and drop off their sharps containers before going to park their vehicles, she notes.

The program co-ordinators also arranged for a Toronto-based licensed medical waste disposal company to pick up the containers and haul them away for proper disposal. More than 75 farmers dropped off containers.

Ontario Pork and its co-sponsors paid for the program, which cost about $4,000, Zurbrigg says. 

Proper sharps disposal

Zurbrigg says licensed medical waste disposal companies should incinerate used sharps.

“This prevents build up in a landfill and prevents any medication residues from entering soil or groundwater.”

Bottom line

Ontario Pork expects to deliver its used sharps disposal program again this year, helping hog farmers have a safe and economical place to get rid of the biohazards.

Article by: Susan Mann