People returning their beer bottles in Sudbury this long weekend may have to sort through their own empties, as some Beer Store employees are refusing to reach blindly into a bag or box.

That move complies with a corporate policy that is already in place to protect employees from a mix of hazardous items that have been reported in bottle returns in the past.

When sorting through empties, Beer Store workers encounter items like used syringes, fish hooks and wine bottles filled with kerosene.

Matt Deacon

Paris Street Beer Store manager Matt Deacon says people should always be aware of the state of their bottle and can returns. "Notify us if there is something that is damaged. Nobody will ever get mad if you have a broken container, as long as we know it's there." (Hilary Duff/CBC)

The manager at the Beer store on Paris Street said objectionable returns put employees at risk, and may cost customers their cash.

"We usually wouldn't offer them a return,” Matt Deacon said.

“The bottles are only offered a return if it's brought back in a refillable state. [If it contains] a syringe, or if it's damaged or broken, it can't be refilled. So we wouldn't offer you the deposit."

Dealing with 'garbage'

Deacon said the best thing customers can do is warn employees if there is ever anything dangerous in their bottle return.

"Notify us if there is something that is damaged. Nobody will ever get mad if you have a broken container, as long as we know it's there."

sharps disposal unit

A mix of hazardous items have been reported in bottle returns in the past — from used syringes to fish hooks to wine bottles filled with kerosene. Bottles found with needles in them are placed in a sharps disposal unit. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

Beer Store employee DJ Horek said he’s seen “used shot gun shells, used rifle shells, broken glass, condoms, you name it."

"Sometimes I have to isolate the customer and ask them 'please not do this again. We're here to facilitate your empties, not deal with your garbage’."

Deacon added workers wear puncture-resistant gloves and eyewear.

When used syringes are found stuffed in bottles, workers place the entire bottle in a bio-hazard sharps box. A sharps box can be found in every Beer Store location.

While the company does have a policy so employees don't have to reach in bags to sort bottles, it's ultimately up to staff members to make that decision for themselves, Deacon noted.