Hazards in the Recycling Industry
A new report published in June focused attention on the hazards faced by workers in the recycling industry—specifically, the workers who process recyclables after they’ve been collected. These workers sort materials by hand, separating paper from metal and removing non-recyclable waste. They are required to lean over conveyor belts to perform repetitive motions in awkward positions. Sometimes they must reach into closed bags that could contain hazardous materials, including hypodermic needles and syringes, dead and rotting animals, household solvents and cleaners, and rotting food waste. Workers at these facilities also face crushing hazards, respiratory hazards such as dust and other airborne contaminants, extreme temperatures, and exposures to noise and vibration. Information from this report appears below.
Sustainable and Safe Recycling: Protecting Workers Who Protect the Planet (PDF).
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From Sustainable and Safe Recycling:“In too many cities across the country, sorters work in loud and dusty facilities where they are often exposed to extreme temperatures. Working long hours, they lean over conveyor belts sorting materials—pulling out things that don’t belong, ensuring the best quality materials are bundled together for the highest value.”