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Discarded needles a hazard for workers in recycling business

An Okanagan recycling company is asking residents not to follow advice from the City of Kelowna when handling discarded drug needles. The city suggests putting the syringes in plastic bottles. But many of those bottles are ending up at local recycling depots, putting workers at risk. Kelly Hayes reports.

Consider this: Interior Health distributed more than 380,000 needles in 2018.

That works out to more than 1,000 a day, and many are ending up on the street.

Cleaning them all up is a big and expensive job. So the City of Kelowna suggests that if you come across one, consider picking it up yourself.

READ MORE: Fire department to handle safe disposal of discarded needles in Kelowna

“What we want the members of the public to know is that it is safe to pick up a needle if you feel comfortable doing so,” said Lance Kayfish of the City of Kelowna.

The city says that if you choose to deal with the needle, put it in a plastic container, like a water bottle and drop it in a sharps container.

But that advice isn’t going over well with those in the recycling business.

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WATCH BELOW (Aired Jan. 11, 2019): Kelowna public encouraged to pick up discarded needles

Kelowna public encouraged to pick up discarded needles
Kelowna public encouraged to pick up discarded needles

Some of those plastic bottles with the needles in them are turning up at recycling depots.

Deanne Stephenson, a manager at Cascades Recovery, a recycling company in Kelowna, says employees being pricked by discarded needles has become a common occurrence.

“We’re trending about five to six needle pokes a year. We’ve already had one in 2019. It’s scary for them,” Stephenson said.

READ MORE: Bike brigade launched to clean up improperly discarded needles, garbage in downtown Vernon

To compound the problem, Stephenson says they’re even finding entire containers of discarded needles, and every one of them ends up on the sorting line.

“We do see the boxes full of needles in the recycling. What happens is the box breaks open when it’s in the truck because the truck is compacted? And that’s when you can get up to 100 needles at one time,” she said.

Stephenson doesn’t pretend she has a solution to the problem and until answers are found, she’s asking people not to follow the city’s advice of using a recyclable plastic bottle.

“I really do not recommend putting it in your recycling or in a recyclable container,” she said, “because you’re moving the risk to our employees and our goal is zero harm.”

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