New Brunswick

Saint John group sets up 5 drop-box sites for dirty needles

Community groups in Saint John are trying to discourage intravenous drug users from littering the streets with dirty needles.

Needle drop boxes are being tested in 6-month pilot project

Five needle drop boxes have been set up to reduce the risk from discarded needles. (Bert Savard/CBC)

Needle drop boxes have been placed in some areas of Saint John to try to keep used needles from being discarded on the street. 

"We were finding them all over the neighbourhoods," said Barry Galloway, executive director of the One Change Inc., a community group originally formed to improve the quality of life in the old north end.

The group helped start a pilot program, beginning with five drop boxes. They've been installed on power poles on Waterloo Street, Coburg Street, Holly Street and Sydney Street. Another drop box is on the side of the Nick Nicolle Community Centre on Durham Street.  

The boxes are secure but easily accessible to the public, Galloway said.

"We talked to the neighbourhoods and those were the areas where we were seeing them the most," he said of the needles thrown away by drug users. "The drop boxes are placed in convenient areas."

Each box cost about $500, including installation. Galloway hasn't seen any needles left on the ground since the boxes went up. 

"We know people are using it and that's encouraging," he said.

What do they look like?

The locked boxes are made of metal, with openings for syringes and needles.  

Avenue B Harm Reduction Inc., a nonprofit  organization aimed at reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, will be discarding the needles once the boxes are full.

"It's a matter of unlocking the box, taking out one plastic container and replacing it with a new one," Galloway said.

He said the group has been trying to bring the drop boxes to Saint John for the past two years.

Requests for more

And now that they're here, they will be treated as a pilot project for the next six months.

Eventually, ONE Change hopes to put boxes in other areas and has already received requests from local groups and businesses to add more.

"Once people know where they are, they do use them," he said.