Sharp ob­jects a prob­lem in county's waste stream

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - ANNE FARRIES

My friend spot­ted the used hy­po­der­mic nee­dle first.

We were out walk­ing two weeks ago, and there it was, aban­doned by a stranger like a slim, white stain on the green grass near the blue wa­ter.

“Should we pick it up?” he asked.

“Def­i­nitely,” I an­swered. You can’t leave such things where they could hurt some­one.

Hold­ing the nee­dle gin­gerly, he car­ried it to my car. Feel­ing vir­tu­ous, I held out the small trash bin that holds my vo­lu­mi­nous stash of fast-food wrap­pers be­hind the driver seat.

Then, I for­got the nee­dle. A few days later, I emp­tied the bin into the house­hold trash, bliss­fully obliv­i­ous of the germ-fanged mon­ster amid the burger boxes and soda cups.

Even­tu­ally, it ended up in a bar­rel at the end of my drive­way, and so, my ear­lier at­tempt to pre­vent harm was wasted, be­cause when the county garbage col­lec­tors pick up de­tri­tus and re­cy­cli­tus, they don’t sift it. They toss the trash in the truck, where it is piled and com­pacted, jos­tled and jig­gled, rolled and rum­pled — and that is just the start of the jour­ney.

“When you leave your garbage at the end of your drive­way, as a res­i­dent … you can stop think­ing about it,” said Jo­ce­lyn Bethune, Vic­to­ria County spokesper­son. “But that is the be­gin­ning of its time with our em­ploy­ees.

“Our tip­ping staff hand-bomb the blue bags. Our re­cy­cling staff open all the blue

bags and hand-sort each of the items.”

“So, even though you tied the bag and said good-bye to it, it’s just the be­gin­ning for our staff.”

The county picks up a lot of trash: by the end of Oc­to­ber, 752,790 kilo­grams of waste, 56,850 kilo­grams of or­gan­ics and 163,870 kilo­grams of re­cy­clables went through the Bad­deck sta­tion this year. More or­gan­ics and re­cy­clables are pro­cessed in New Haven.

“They open the bags onto a ta­ble, and if some­body sees a nee­dle, then all work in that area has to stop,” Bethune said. “We have to make sure that ev­ery­body is safe. Is there one nee­dle, or a bunch of nee­dles?”

Though the prob­lem in Vic­to­ria County is not as se­vere as it is in the CBRM, “we still en­counter nee­dles in re­cy­cling con­tain­ers,” Bethune said. “Last year in Bad­deck, we saw maybe five to ten nee­dles in the re­cy­cling de­pot …and this sum­mer in Wag­mat­cook, there were nee­dles in re­cy­cling con­tain­ers.”

A few years ago, there was an is­sue in New Haven, she said.

“There are ways to nar­row down where these things are com­ing from (but) for us, it has al­ways been about ed­u­ca­tion.”

“When this comes up, they say, ‘oh, I didn’t re­al­ize’, be­cause the old way was to put it in a Javex bot­tle,” Bethune said.

Bethune ex­plains “Safe Sharps”, a pro­gram run by the pro­vin­cial phar­ma­cists’ as­so­ci­a­tion. Free con­tain­ers are avail­able at drug­stores and the health cen­tre in Wag­mat­cook, which is where they should be re­turned when full.

It’s not just nee­dles. Any­thing sharp — such as the rusted knives that one re­cy­cling staffer found in a blue bag this month — could pierce the heavy gloves that county staff wear.

Bro­ken light­bulbs and smashed bot­tles should not go into a blue re­cy­cling bag, Bethune said. The pieces should be wrapped in pa­per or card­board to pre­vent the sharp edges from pro­trud­ing, then put in the clear garbage bag.

It’s a mat­ter, she said, of think­ing, “If it was your hus­band, your wife, your son or daugh­ter do­ing this job, how would you want to make sure that they’re safe?”

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit pans.ns.ca/pub­lic/pro­grams/safe-sharps and www.vic­to­ri­a­county.com/where­does-it-go.html.

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