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Needle disposal causing health concern

By Kevin Lessard, KCFW Reporter, klessard@kcfw.com
Published On: Dec 26 2013 06:01:34 PM MST
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Flathead County recycling managers worry they'll have to shut down one of the most used recycling bins because of a health safety issue.

Turns out, workers are finding needles mixed in with bottles and milk jugs in the recycling bins.

"If we can't get this stopped and stopped extremely quickly, we will end up having to pull that plastic recycling container at the landfill and we just won't have that ability to recycle plastics at the landfill," said Public Works Director David Prunty.

Prunty says that even after putting the sign on the regular recycling bin and then moving the actual sharp object bin right next to it, he's still seeing the needle problem continue here at the regular recycling bin at the landfill.

Here's the problem.

Needles dumped in the recycling bin end up being hand sorted.

That means an employee could end up with something like hepatitis or HIV if accidentally poked with one of the needles.

"They have to sort out the different kinds of plastics, number one's and number two's, and when they're doing that, they're doing that by hand and the concern there certainly is one of their employees stepping on it, getting stuck in their hand or whatever it might be for the employee safety."

Prunty says they don't want to remove the bin.

It's one of the top two most recycling bins in the Flathead.

But he knows just how dangerous this problem can be, and wonders if the risk doesn't outweigh the benefit.

"I've worked in facilities where it has occurred and so it certainly is a potential, so our goal is to eliminate that potential."

Prunty says if you are disposing of needles; make sure they are in a special container.

He says you can get those kinds of containers from doctors offices or pharmacies.

You can even use just a coffee container with a lid; anything that doesn't leave the needles where anyone can touch them.

And don't forget, put needles in the bin that is clearly labeled "sharp objects bin."