Safe Needle Disposal
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​Needles are used by a wide range of community members, including people with medical conditions, and people who use substances. When needles are discarded improperly in a public place, it is often a result of not having easy access to safe disposal. 

Interior Health supports safe needle disposal through:

  • Providing safe needle disposal education to people who use drugs and other community members.
  • Distributing small sharps containers for personal use.
  • Accepting used harm reduction sharps back at all IH public health, mental health and substance use, and primary care sites for safe disposal.
  • Supporting municipalities and non-profits to safely dispose of needles by covering the costs of harm reduction sharps disposal.
  • Supporting community partner agencies to conduct community clean ups.
  • Supporting supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites in communities where appropriate.
  • Safe Sharps Disposal Toolkit: A Community Response to a Community Issue
  • Community Clean-up Program Toolkit: This toolkit provides a sample program focusing on providing Peers (people with lived experience) an opportunity to receive support while participating as a volunteer in community clean-up initiatives.

What to do if you find a discarded needle

If a discarded needle is found in a public place, your local health unit or municipality can advise on needle collection services in your community. Alternatively, the following steps should be taken to safely dispose of the needle.

Step 1

  • Find a rigid plastic container with a secure lid (e.g. plastic drink bottle with a wide mouth, liquid laundry bottle).
  • Remove the lid and place the container on the ground beside the needle.
  • Do not break or recap the needle.

Step 2

  • Pick up the needle by the centre of the syringe barrel with care.
  • Use work or latex gloves, or tongs, if available.
  • Always point the sharp end of the needle down and away from you.

Step 3

  • Put the needle in the container, sharp-end first, and secure the lid.
  • While doing this step, the container should be on the ground; do not hold it in your hand.
  • Remove gloves and wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Step 4

  • Drop off the sealed container at a local health unit, pharmacy or community drop box.

More information

Community needle stick injuries – what to do and what is the risk?

Getting poked by a needle can be concerning. However, it is important to remember that the risk of infection from an improperly discarded needle in the community is extremely low. In the event of a needle stick injury, the following steps should be taken:

  • Allow the wound to bleed freely. Do not squeeze the wound. This may damage the tissues and increase risk of infection.
  • Wash the wound with soap and water. Do not apply bleach or alcohol to the wound.
  • Go to your local emergency department immediately for follow-up care. An assessment will be done to determine the need for post-exposure prophylaxis (e.g. medications and/or vaccinations to further reduce the risk of transmission). Baseline blood tests for HBV, HCV and HIV will be done at this visit, with follow-up blood tests to be done over the next three months to make sure none of these viruses have been transmitted.

Learn more about community needle stick injuries (BCCDC).

MoH     PCQO