Cambridge pilots custom-designed needle bins to encourage safe disposal
More options for safe needle disposal needed, harm reduction expert says
The City of Cambridge is piloting a custom-designed sharps receptacle in Galt to encourage people to safely dispose of needles.
The bins were designed by the city's ambassador team, a group of city staff members that patrol the core areas and carry out regular maintenance, including picking up discarded needles.
The design is modelled after the existing wrought iron garbage receptacles used downtown.
"We had heard from some people that they felt conspicuous using the large yellow mailbox-sized sharps containers, so we thought we would design a smaller sharps disposal unit that was more in line with the downtown aesthetic but still safe and easy for the public to use," said Brian Geertz, who oversees the ambassador team.
Injection drug use has been an ongoing issue in Cambridge over the last few years. Geertz said the ambassador team collected thousands of discarded needles in 2018.
"We're trying to brainstorm as many positive things we can do to battle some of these challenges in the community and this is one of them," he said.
More options for safe disposal needed
The Region of Waterloo already provides two yellow sharps disposal bins in Cambridge. Similar bins from the brand Secure Sharps retail for about $1,879.95.
The custom design, which features a mailbox-style flap and a biohazard label, cost $1,000.
Ruth Cameron, executive director of the Aids Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and area (ACCKWA), said sharps containers are an important tool for harm reduction.
The safe disposal of used needles helps prevent needle stick injuries and reduces the spread of HIV and hepatitis, she said.
Cameron said if people are too self-conscious to use the traditional yellow bin, that means they aren't getting used and items may be disposed of incorrectly.
"If [the custom bin] is clearly marked and distinct in terms of its labelling from the other parts of the receptacle, hopefully individuals will feel comfortable using it, and we can create a larger variety of options for safe disposal," she said.
ACCKWA currently offers a needle exchange program and accepts returned needles and sharps containers.
Cameron said the organization wants to see a larger variety of needle return options in the community and plans to help spread the word about Cambridge's new bin.
"It can only make the community safer for all people, both those using substances and for the general public as well." said Cameron.
- A previous version of this story misquoted Ruth Cameron. The quote should have read: "It can only make the community safer for all people, both those using substances and for the general public as well."May 28, 2019 11:18 AM ET