Research to Quantify Specific Injuries at North American MRFs : Needlestick Survey Injuries at Recycling Facilities to be Surveyed by SWANA & EREF

swana efer recycling safety needlestick

A joint research project to quantify and address the issue of needlestick injuries at Material Recycling Facilities (MRFs) in the US and Canada is being conducted by the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) and the Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF)

The organisations explained that Needlestick injuries are a serious risk to waste industry workers, especially in MRFs where sorting recyclables on picking lines and similar activities can put employees in contact with sharps and, as a result, blood borne pathogens.

The objectives of the survey are to inventory observances of needles and syringes in MRF waste streams in the U.S. and Canada and document the extent of needle-related incidences (both those that resulted in no injuries and those that did).

“We need to better understand the scope of the needlestick problem at MRFs in order to develop appropriate mitigation strategies, which may include regulatory proposals,” said David Biderman, SWANA’s Executive Director and CEO.

According to SWANA, historically, the frequency of needles and syringes in the recycling stream and the associated incidence rate of associated injuries in MRFs has not been well documented, though it has been suggested anecdotally in the industry that the rate has increased in recent years. This is consistent with the increased disposal of needles and syringes generated by older Americans in their homes.

“If successful, SWANA and EREF may survey companies and sanitation departments to assess needlestick issues in the collection side of the industry as well,” said Biderman.

Bryan Staley, EREF’s President and CEO added: “This effort builds off of and expands EREF’s prior data acquisition efforts to better characterize the number of recycling facilities and their activities.”

“Given their focus on safety, working with SWANA is a natural fit and results from this project provide a useful benchmark for owners and operators to use as they evaluate this issue in their own facilities,” he continued.

This project is one of the first to be conducted under the terms of a memorandum of understanding that was executed by the two organizations in late 2016.

Results will be aggregated in a form that keeps the identity of individual facilities private. To take the survey, interested parties can access the project webpage here.

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