A needle disposal box in the men’s room at Burlington City Hall
Officials will soon expand a needle-disposal pilot program that began at Burlington City Hall last winter, officials said.
The Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department will outfit several bathrooms at “high public use and waterfront locations” around the city by September 1, said Deryk Roach, the superintendent of parks maintenance and operations. Officials hope the Stericycle boxes will reduce the number of used needles found in parks and on city sidewalks.
“Even one receptacle can lower the risk for maintenance workers, employees and members of the public using those facilities,” Roach told Seven Days.
People discarded 120 needles in the two canisters in city hall bathrooms since their installation in February. Parks workers routinely find and dispose of used needles while on the job, and Roach said he hopes the success of the pilot boxes will carry over to other sites. In the past, bags of needles flushed at city hall and the library clogged the plumbing systems at both buildings, Roach said — sparking the discussion about safe disposal.
“The design style of the box lays the needle flat and the entire insert removes, so it’s the safest for staff,” Roach wrote in an email. “The trial at city hall has gone well, and the fact that needles are in the boxes reduced our staff/public exposure.”
Boxes will go up inside bathrooms at Oakledge Park, North Beach, Leddy Park and the Fletcher Free Library. Each box costs about $50, and another $25 to install. The city spent about $1,200 on the program this year. Included in the cost are 14 boxes and replacement liners, Roach said.
Aside from street drug users, the boxes will benefit people who use needles for medical reasons such as diabetes or cancer treatment, said City Councilor Selene Colburn (P-East District). She’s worked on the issue practically since she joined the council in 2013 after members of the public reported finding used needles.
“There were instances of kids getting stuck, and also city employees,” Colburn said. “The risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C from a used needle is statistically really, really low, but it’s very stressful to get a needlestick and have to wait for the results from those tests … So anything we can do to reduce that is great.”