More businesses installing sharps disposal boxes

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 21, 2012
AIDS PEI is worried about IV drug use in Summerside and STI numbers on the Island.
stevendepolo/Flickr

The disposal manager for Island Waste Management Corporation says she’s thrilled to see businesses are starting to install sharps disposal boxes.

Heather Myers says they’ve had workers punctured by needles and other businesses have, too.

She said it’s a major health concern and results in months of anxious waiting because when someone is stuck with a needle they have to undergo a series of tests to ensure they’re not affected with Hepatitis C.

“We had staff get stuck with them,’’ Myers says. “People were just putting their sharps in Javex containers and baggies and putting them in the waste carts. The collection vehicles are compaction vehicles so the sharps would be flying everywhere.’’

The Tim Hortons restaurant on Kent Street in Charlottetown recently installed sharps disposal units in its public washrooms after it began to find needles disposed of randomly around the rooms.

No one from D.P. Murphy returned phone calls seeking an interview for this story.

Companies like Superior Sanitation have run into problems. Staff on the recycling line have been pricked with needles.

Myers says IWMC provides workers with gloves that are puncture-resistant.

“We just went through a phase at the central compost facility where loads came in. The staff on the processing line saw a bunch of syringes going by them and just backed off and let it go through. They (also) found a syringe partially filled with blood with a needle still on it. You just never know.’’

Myers said she also heard of a worker at a fast-food restaurant in Charlottetown, who was simply taking the garbage out, was pricked by a needle and had to go through months of testing.

Alana Leard, with AIDS P.E.I., says there’s no statistics on the Island in regards to IV drug use and is happy Tim Hortons is being proactive.

“It’s really around Charlottetown, in parks and different places where people are finding needles. We had a call this morning,’’ Leard said Wednesday. “A lot of people who are IV drug users don’t feel comfortable going into the needle exchange or pharmacies or places like that to drop off the needles when they’re open.

“If there was a drop box, I think that would make things a lot more accessible and clean up a lot of that issue.’’

Leard said installing drop boxes does not promote drug use and turning a blind eye to the problem won’t make it go away.

“This is an addiction issue. These are people first. What they are doing now shouldn’t play into whether or not they deserve to be healthy or not. Stigma is a major barrier.’’

Not setting up drop boxes means more needles going into manholes, garbages, in parks and alleys, any place that is discreet.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/DveStewart