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Medical waste at SD recycling centers may be prohibited

PIERRE -- A panel of state lawmakers agreed Thursday that workers at recycling centers need better protection against dangerous medical waste.

The House Health and Human Services Committee endorsed legislation that would impose a criminal penalty for negligently releasing medical waste to a recycling disposal destination.

A violation would be a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine or both.

The danger occurs when workers are hand-sorting at a single-stream recycling center.

Shaun Feilmeier, of Millennium Recycling in Sioux Falls, testified by telephone that he's contacted local, state and federal authorities and no agency seemed to have an answer.

"We found there's nothing we can do to protect our employees from potentially fatal injury," he said.

Sometimes the amounts have been large enough to link to a specific hauler and can be traced back to the source, he said.

The legislation, HB 1131, would target disposable equipment, instruments, utensils, human tissue, laboratory waste, blood specimens or other substances that could carry pathogenic organisms.

The House panel voted 12-1 in favor and sent the measure to the full House of Representatives for consideration possibly as early as Tuesday afternoon.