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Employees at Penn Waste's recycling center in Manchester Township are seeing more needles and medical waste lately, and it's presenting a safety hazard and productivity problem.

The facility places all needles and medical waste in cartons, and the facility's director of operations, Kathy Masch, said last month was the most they've seen since opening in February 2015.

Steve Houser, manager of the center, said his employees filled three full cartons in February.

Houser said the line typically runs 22 hours per day, six days a week. When a sorter finds a needle, the entire system must be shut down while it's properly disposed of and the manager looks for more needles.

The system shutdown usually lasts for about five minutes, according to Houser, who said this will often occur multiple times per day.

All of the recycling is hand-sorted by 28 employees, who work on 10 different parts of the line. The sorters wear protective gloves, but needles have still punctured several employees, Masch said. No employees have been seriously injured yet, he added.

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Medical waste and needles are not recyclable materials, said Amanda Davidson, Penn Waste's director of communications. Penn Waste recommends placing needles in hard, non-recyclable plastic bottles, such as empty laundry detergent bottles, and throwing them in the trash.

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Penn Waste workers are encountering more medical waste, including used syringes, while manually sorting recyclables.

The recycling center at 3625 Mia Brae Drive sorts recycling from parts of York, Lancaster, Dauphin, Cumberland and Adams counties.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.

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