Quesnel to put needle disposal boxes in public washrooms

The city of Quesnel, B.C., will become the latest community to offer needle disposal boxes in public washrooms as the opioid crisis worsens.

Staff and citizens will also receive education on how to safely handle used needles

A needle disposal box in downtown Windsor, Ont., gathered an estimated 500 used syringes in its first week. Quesnel, B.C., will be adding disposal bins to public washrooms. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

The city of Quesnel, B.C., will become the latest community to offer needle disposal boxes in public washrooms as the opioid crisis worsens in the province.

The practice of providing safe ways for drug users to dispose of needles and other paraphernalia is recommended by health officials and harm reduction groups as a way to shield the public.

Discarded needles and syringes are a common sight in cities across Canada. (CBC)

In Windsor, Ont., it's estimated that over 500 needles were taken off the streets within one week of a drop box being set up earlier this year. Other communities report similar results.

"It's not an original idea," said Coun. John Brisco, who put the motion forward. "Sequester the needle and protect them from being handled by anybody else."

The decision comes shortly after the B.C. Coroner's Service confirmed the number of overdose deaths in B.C. has surpassed 1,100, eclipsing the total of 981 in all of 2016.

Brisco said although he's not sure needle use in the city is a growing problem, it is a continuing one.

Harm reduction controversy

​Quesnel is also in the midst of a controversy surrounding a supportive housing society wanting to expand its services while facing backlash from residents concerned about drug and alcohol use. 

"It's an ongoing debate in our community... is it enabling or a safety issue?" said Mayor Bob Simpson. 

In Vancouver, park rangers collect discarded needles every morning at 'hot spots' in city parks. Quesnel will be providing city staff with training on safe dispose of needles and other drug-related items. (David Horemans/CBC)

Simpson said the shelter issue has prompted a larger discussion around harm reduction in Quesnel which led to the resolution to install needle disposal bins at four public washrooms in the city's downtown and along its riverfront trail.

The city will also provide staff with training on how to safely handle needles and provide education so the public is able to safely deal with needles without having to call police or the city.

What do you do if you find a needle?

The following information is adapted from the City of Prince George and Northern Health's  Safe Needle Disposal Guide

  1. Use a pair of tongs, pliers or gloves to pick up the needle by the barrel.
  2. Grasp the needle by the plastic barrel, at the opposite end from the needle tip. Point the needle tip down and away from yourself. Do not try to put the cap back on the needle.
  3. Put the needle in a strong plastic container, on a stable surface, and tape the lid tightly closed (with duct tape, if you have it). Bleach bottles are good because they have a small opening and a screw-on lid. A thick plastic peanut butter jar will work. You shouldn't use a glass jar or light plastic or a milk carton. Glass can break and needles easily poke through light plastic or milk cartons. 
  4. Take the needle to a harm reduction clinic or to a pharmacy that accepts needles.

About the Author

Andrew Kurjata


Andrew Kurjata is a radio producer and digital journalist in northern British Columbia, situated in the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh in Prince George.