California has long taken a leading role in protecting the environment, and a lot of us love to reduce, reuse and recycle. The recycling industry can be hard on workers, however, and the dangers can be as varied as they are concerning.
The task of taking everything we discard and trying make use of as much of it as possible is a big challenge. Everybody seems to have a different idea of how and what to toss into the waste stream. Since they keep the environment safe, keep them safe with these tips.
Don't toss electronic devices in the trash or recycling
In California, 65% of the fires breaking out in waste facilities were caused by lithium-ion batteries in 2017. While it's rare for a battery to catch fire, they have a nasty way of causing nearby lithium-ion batteries to catch fire too, and that's when the situation becomes explosive.
Your community probably has a battery recycling program and you should follow its instructions. Home Depots, Lowes and Best Buy stores recycle lithium-ion batteries as well.
Dispose of used needles properly
About 95% of used needles are discarded improperly, and being inadvertently stuck by needles might be the most common injury associated with solid waste and recycling.
Every year, something like 1,100 needle-stick injuries are suffered by waste workers every year. Those who pick from the line with their hands are injured at about 39 injuries for every 1000 workers. More than half of the facilities responding to a survey reported seeing needles either daily and a few times a week.
The problem was recently studied jointly by the Environmental Research and Education Foundation and the Solid Waste Association of North America.
Watch for sanitation workers in the streets and alleys
In the first three weeks of this year, 17 sanitation workers were killed in North America. Collecting trash and recycling is the fifth most deadly occupation among civilians, with 35 fatalities per 100,000 workers in the last available year of statistics.
Motorists, especially, should watch for these workers, pass stopped trucks with extreme care, and definitely put your phone and food away to avoid distractions while you're driving.