GALT (CBS13) – They’ve got a medical waste mess in Galt. In just one month, more than 900 hypodermic needles were dumped off at a recycling plant there. The only problem is that recycling plant is not equipped to handle the medical waste.
It’s illegal to throw away hypodermic needles in the trash, but only certain cities and counties in California have laws on the book addressing the matter.
Workers at the Cal-Waste recycling plant in Galt come across dozens of the needles every day.
Cal-Waste says workers wear safety gloves while they sift through 140 tons of trash a day, but they can still get poked, putting them at risk for blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV.
“It’s very scary for these employees and for our staff that has to look them in the face and say ‘hey look, you now have to go and be tested and it’s going to take a year’” said Heidi Sanborn, a company spokesperson.
Currently the only way for people in Galt to legally dispose of their used needles for free is to drive to Elk Grove.
Many of these people are low income, they can’t do that, so they end up trying to self-contain them and put them in the trash. That’s why Heidi Sanborn is in favor of a proposal in the city of Galt to require stores that sell needles to take them back free of charge.
“It’s not cheap, but somebody is going to have to pay,” said Sanborn.
But in the past, some retailers have expressed concern over the high expense, saying it costs them about $90 to properly dispose of a box of 100 needles.
“It shouldn’t fall on our industry. It shouldn’t fall on us,” she said.
Proponents argue the cost is much greater to employees whose lives are at risk coming in contact with used needles.
“They are going to touch that needle, and if it’s grandma Betty at home who’s diabetic or it’s a junky in an alley, that employee out there does not know what they’ve just been stuck with,” she said.
Supporters are also seeking legislation that would require free needle take backs statewide
Currently places like the city of Sacramento, Vacaville, and Los Angeles have point of purchase needle take back programs.