2/7/2013 2:03:00 PM Needles are still showing up at recycling center
Bob Gher, director of the Crawford Solid Waste Recycling Facility, sweeps some of the needles his staff found into a bucket for proper disposal. He said they’ve seen a sharp increase in needles being sent to the facility, where they endanger the workers Needles should be put in a screw-top, heavy plastic bottle and disposed of as garbage, not recycling. (Graham Milldrum photo)
All types of paper
Styrofoam of any type
A, B, C or D series batteries
Source: Crawford County Solid Waste Disposal Agency
Syringes and other dangerous objects are showing up in the Crawford Solid Waste Recycling Facility again, director Bob Gher said.
The employees have received hundreds of the needles in the last few weeks, he said. Sometimes they are thrown out by local residents in the cardboard boxes they come in, which begin to fall apart by the time they arrive. Other times a few needles have been found frozen in a plastic bag with an insulin bottle and dirt-encrusted chicken bones.
Situations like that are dangerous for workers Megan Evans and John Snow, both of Oblong.
Any one of those syringes could carry a wide variety of blood-borne diseases. And, even if the needle doesn't carry disease, an open wound can become infected or expose the worker to other risks in the recycling flow. Evans said she's "flabbergasted" that people would endanger the staff.
She said she thinks no one has been hurt by a needle yet, but it's hard to tell. With the number of bumps and nicks they receive it's certainly possible, she said.
Snow said the risk also interferes with his work. When someone spots a needle anywhere in the recycling, it slows down the sorting process dramatically, he said. The danger often forces the staff to throw an entire load out, he said.
Gher is ordering needle-resistant gloves at to help reduce the risk, at a rate of $50 a pair. But he said they can't fully protect the employees from the danger. And vaccination against hepatitis, similar to what health-care workers receive, is a six-month three-shot series that would cost $150, he said.
But that wouldn't help the people doing community service at the center, Gher said, who won't be there by the time any inoculations are completed.
The state rule for needle disposal is to put the needles into a screw-top, heavy plastic bottle, which should go into the garbage, not the recycling.
The crews have received several of those containers, mostly from laundry detergent. The contentious recyclers labelled them "No don't recycle no" and taped them shut. Those the crews throw into the garbage, where they belonged originally.
The bottles are the only safe option available at the county level. Local residents can pay for in-home needle destruction devices or what is called a "sharps mailback" program.
Needles are the most concerning of other dangerous items they receive, Gher said. People also toss nails and construction debris into the recycling bins, he said, possibly because their trash bins are overflowing.
Of these item, broken glass may be the most aggravating to Gher. Not only is it a hazard, but the region hasn't recycled glass in years. It's just another way workers can be injured by unthinking people, he said.