October is Diabetic Awareness Month and the perfect time to discuss needles and biohazardous waste recycling contamination. Needles are the most dangerous contaminant sent to recycling facilities. Some people dispose of needles in a milk jug or sharps container and place them in their curbside recycling bin. Needles and all biohazardous waste, including syringes that have had the needle removed, are dangerous and never considered recyclable. Recycling trucks have compression mechanisms that can break containers open resulting in dirty needles spreading throughout the entire recycling load. Once loaded on the conveyor belt at the recycling facilities, these needles pose significant health and safety hazards to the people who are touching and sorting recycling.

Needles contaminating recycling
Photo by Esther Davis -Trans-Jordan

If a worker is stuck by a dirty needle, they are sent immediately for baseline laboratory testing. Infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, and a variety of others are transmitted through dirty needles. Since some diseases do not manifest in the blood immediately, the worker is retested months later. Keep others safe by disposing of needles and biohazardous waste appropriately and never attempt to recycle them.