Used needles placed with kerbside rubbish and recycling can result in serious worker injuries says DWP as it appeals to needle-users to not place their used syringes in bins but instead take them to a needle exchange or GP for disposal.
Mixed recycling collected at the kerbside by DWP is taken to a Material Recycling Facility (MRF) in North Wales where it is sorted. Most of this process is handled mechanically, but the few items that cannot be sorted this way are processed manually by hand.
When loose needles or sharps boxes (plastic boxes that store used needles) are found by workers, the sorting line is stopped immediately so the item(s) can be retrieved safely. In 2017, this happened 223 times.
On one night in late-2016, the MRF encountered one of the largest number of sharps box incidents ever recorded. Of the boxes found, 13 were potentially attributable to Dorset material.
But there are also instances where the used needles have been found too late.
In the past 18 months, there have been two separate incidents where operatives working on these sorting lines have been injured by used needles. This has required the worker to be taken to hospital immediately to ensure they haven’t contracted a serious disease, obviously causing huge amounts of distress.
Worryingly, despite Dorset’s waste only making up 12% of the total recycling material that passes through the facility, 42% of the needles and sharps boxes found have been traced back to Dorset.
Karyn Punchard, director of the Dorset Waste Partnership (DWP), said, “Nobody should have to endure the horror of injuring themselves on a used needle, but sadly this is happening far too often. We can only assume that some people believe they are doing the right thing by putting their used needles in a plastic sharps box and then placing it in their recycling. But this is incredibly dangerous as most of our mixed recycled material is crushed in our vehicles while in transit, meaning that needles can easily fall out of the sharps boxes.
“People who need to use needles are reminded that these should be placed in a sharps box and then taken to a needle exchange or GP for disposal. They should never be placed with rubbish or recycling at the kerbside, either loose or in any kind of container.”
The DWP is working with Public Health Dorset and Needle Exchange programmes to ensure people are reminded of what to do with their used syringes.
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Tags: Dorset Waste Partnership