People might think they’re doing their part to help out the environment, but what if something put in recycling bins actually hindered the process or even hurt someone?
On Tuesday, Loraas Recycle held a show-and-tell with hazardous materials that were tossed into blue bins over a day and a half.
Knives, heavy duty chains, a microwave and even a model spine have made their way to the sorting facility on 1st Avenue North in Saskatoon and the dangers don’t stop there.
“Batteries, power tools, ammunition but also biohazards waste in the form of diapers, needles and animal carcasses,” said Adam Gartner, who has worked at the plant for three years.
Over 100 tonnes of recyclable material is diverted from the landfill and directed to Loraas. Among the loads are hundreds of contaminants that pose a daily threat to staff.
WATCH BELOW: Jenna Curson from Loraas Recycle with the dos and don’t’s of recycling
If not quickly contained, a fire last month could have been disastrous given the amount of paper and flammable material inside. It took over two hours for fire crews to get it under control and the costs of the damages caused by the blaze are still undetermined.
After six weeks of renovation and delays in processing, the facility is back to being fully operational. Staff said it’s all because someone put a lithium-ion battery in their blue bin.
“This request from the public is not based on economics,” Jenna Curson, with Loraas’ community relations, said.
The rate of non-recyclable items surfacing while staff sort the materials has risen by a whopping 75 per cent in the last three years and Loraas has no idea why.
Perhaps, the most concerning items commonly found by staff are sharps or needles.
“We have gloves but they don’t necessarily protect against all punctures so glass can be an issue but particularly with sharps once a worker is punctured we have to take them to the clinic to get them tested,” Gartner said.
“I’ve definitely talked down a number of employees from concerns about it because we’ve had a number of pokes but we’ve never had any disease transmission.”
Hidden hazards that could damage the facility’s equipment or harm someone working the conveyor belt moving up to 114 metres per minute – if residents were to simply redirect the dangerous goods to the garbage or find the right resource to recycle them.
Only paper, cardboard, plastics, household tin, aluminum and household glass are accepted in blue bins.
“Just because something has a recycling symbol on it, it doesn’t mean it can be put into your blue recycling bin,” Curson explained.
“That symbol is for marketing purposes only, it just tells the consumer that the product has a certain percentage of recycled content within it.”
When in doubt, check the company’s website before deciding to chuck.