'Helps everyone': Growing interest in safe needle disposal from businesses and community groups as requests for pick-ups increase
WINNIPEG -- The number of discarded needles in Winnipeg is a concern in neighbourhoods across the city. They've been found on streets, back lanes, and playgrounds, and the requests for crews to clean them up is on the rise.
Now there is a growing initiative to prevent dirty needles from ending on the ground. At River Avenue and Osborne Street, Starbucks is helping to keep it’s café and the community clean.
Staff tell CTV News within the past month the company decided to install needle disposal containers in the washrooms after a number incidents. One of their customers, Robin Falk said he agrees with the move.
"I do think if needles are getting used and there isn't a safe place to put them they do end up in back lanes and on the street. I think if there is a place to discard those needles, that helps everyone,” said Falk.
Falk said he believes having needle boxes will help ease the burden on city crews cleaning and keep the community safe.
Requests to pick up sharps on the rise: City of Winnipeg
City of Winnipeg data provided to CTV News shows the number of requests to pick up needles has been increasing over the past three years, from 519 requests in 2017, to 559 in 2018, to 762 requests so far this year.
Street Connections lists more than a dozen needle drop off sites across Winnipeg, located at health clinics, and community organizations.
‘A lot of interest’ in disposal of needles: WRHA
Dr. Joss Reimer is the medical director for population and health with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. Reimer said there has been a lot of interest from businesses and community groups to have the boxes installed as well.
She said discarded needles make people feel uncomfortable, but the risk of harm is lower than people think.
"The infections like HIV for example, that would potentially be in that needle, they don't live very long outside of the body," She said. "By the time someone gets exposed to that needle found on the street, that bug is usually dead."
Reimer said it's great when organizations or businesses want to contribute to community wellness and encourages more establishments to install the boxes.
"We know as humans we do whatever is convenient. When it comes to trash, when it comes to needles, were going to dispose of it, wherever is the easiest. If there is nowhere safe to dispose of things, they are going to end up in a non-ideal spot,” said Reimer.
Reimer said any business that wants a needle box can contact Street Connections.
Anyone who finds a needle and doesn't know how to properly dispose of it, can contact 311.
Bear Clan Patrol Executive Director James Favel said if a store does get a needle box, the Bear Clan is happy to help swap them out as needed.