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Gainesville considers regulating sharp trash
Residents may be required to seal needles, other objects
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Gainesville City Council

What: Meeting will include final vote on Sunday alcohol sales
When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Municipal Court Room, Public Safety Complex (Gainesville Justice Center), 701 Queen City Parkway

Proposed City Ordinance

Sec. 4-3-7 (g): All needles or similarly sharp or pointed objects that have the potential of containing hazardous or infectious agents must be disposed of in containers that are rigid, puncture-resistant and leakproof, and which are taped closed or tightly lidded to completely contain the contents therein and prevent any spillage or puncture.


A plastic trash bag isn't much of barrier from a sharp object.

Perhaps nobody knows this better than Gainesville trash collectors who lift trash bags by hand and often use their bodies to leverage the toss into the dump truck.

"We have had situations when our garbage collectors will pick up the bags and needles have stuck our workers," Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard said.

That's a scary feeling for the trash collectors, who don't know what is on the needles that punctured their skin, she said.

It's also costing the city in worker's compensation claims, Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner said.

That's why the city is considering revising an ordinance to require residents to seal needles and sharp objects into "rigid, puncture-resistant" containers before tossing them in a trash bag.

That ban is just one of the updates in a proposed revision to the Gainesville's "trash" ordinance.

The revisions are part of an effort to "polish" a recent overhaul to the city's trash collection and litter enforcement policies that went into effect in January, Sheppard said.

Most of those changes were adopted to make trash collection more efficient and also safer for city workers, she said.

In January, restrictions were placed on where residential trash containers could be placed and how much trash the city would pick up.

"Our goals were to make the solid waste service self-sufficient," Sheppard said. "As a whole, it was successful."

However, city staff introduced a newly revised ordinance to the Gainesville City Council at the Thursday work session. Public Works Department director David Dockery said the new ordinance will "clarify" the last one.

One of the changes would require commercial trash haulers — those who take trash from Dumpsters and local business — to have authorization from the city and follow city ordinances. It also spells out in details what constitutes litter violations.

City council members were largely receptive to the proposed changes in the ordinance.

Most of the discussion was whether to expand restrictions on disposing sharp objects. City staff initially proposed specific language requiring customers to seal needles or pointed objects " that have the potential of containing hazardous or infectious agents" in thicker containers before trashing them.

Bruner preferred requiring residents to put all sharp objects, even broken glass, in such containers regardless of whether it is contaminated.

If the ordinance is approved, Sheppard said the city would have several options for dealing with violators, which could run the gamut from a warning to a fine.

City council will take the issue up later this month. Dockery said a final decision and implementation could be made on Dec. 20.