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Recycling crew put at risk by needles

Recycling efforts are creating some unexpected hazards.

Since September, there have been 500 syringes found in blue bags, while sorters have also come across IV bags, wound covers, catheter bags and other items with fluids and body tissue.

“We don’t want anyone getting a virus. There is a risk,” said Kim Dianocky, with Bluewater Project, which operates the recycling processing facility at the Greater Vernon landfill.

On Nov. 23, an employee came into contact with a syringe. Hepatitis C medication was also found.

Each blue bag is sorted by hand as the contents move along a conveyor belt.

“You don’t know what’s there until it’s there,” said Dianocky of a worker possibly finding medical waste.

While some of the items may have plastic components, they are not recyclable.

“We need people to be aware that what can be recycled is plastic one through seven — your typical food or household items,” said Karmen Morgan,  Regional District of North Okanagan waste reduction co-ordinator.

“We are not thinking about IV bags.”

Attempts are made to link medical waste to the individuals or businesses that may have placed the items in the recycling bags.

“We check any mail in the bag, we check everything,” said Dianocky.

But with 400 tons of material a month going through the processing facility, determining the source proves challenging.

A lot of medical waste also can’t go into the landfill so residents are asked to contact their physician, pharmacist or other medical care professional about the appropriate disposal method.

“We want to remind the public about the unnecessary risks that staff are experiencing as a result of misinformation about what is appropriate for recycling,” said Morgan.

 

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