Used Needle Injures Recycling Center Employee - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Used Needle Injures Recycling Center Employee

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Everything you throw in the trash or recycle gets handled by workers to be sorted. In Otter Tail County one of those employees was sent to the Emergency Room after coming in contact With needles!

"We get all kinds of stuff in here that shouldn't be here." says Zach Fjestad, the Public Information & Education Officer for Otter Tail County Recycling Center.

Some days at the recycling center, being a sorter can be a dirty job. "We've had deer carcasses come in like during deer hunting season, we get a lot of fish guts in the summer time." Zach says.

Workers sort through 15 tons or 30,000 pounds of recyclables each day. If they are going through things like newspapers, they try and get rid of contaminates like plastic bottles. And the last thing that they have on their mind of coming across is hazardous materials, like a bag full of needles.

"So as the material come across the line a lot of things come in plastic bags, and we open everything up to find out what's in there because a lot of times things are mixed. And she opened up a bag that was like any other one and it was full of needles." Zach explains.

He said the bag had hundreds of needles in it, and this wasn't her first time. About ten years ago the same thing happened to the employee, both times she went straight to the emergency room. Thankfully neither time led to any transfer of blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis-B, HIV or AIDS.

"A couple different ways of properly disposing of your needles, the first one and maybe the best is to get one of these red sharp collector containers, you can get them at pharmacies." Zach says.

Another way is to put them in to plastic one or two containers and write sharps on them so workers know they have needles inside. Zach continues, "It's important to put it into something that's going to not easily puncture, like a plastic bottle and it's going to be able to seal."

And those bottles should go in the trash, not the recycle bin, to keep employees safe. Zach tells Valley News Live that this is a problem they see come and go, but lately it's been an increasing amount being recycled instead of thrown away.

To find out other ways to safely dispose needles and other sharps click here for the U.S. Department of Health's advice. 

To find out what materials Otter Tail County does accept click here.

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