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Where To Stick It - Safely Disposing of Needles & Syringes

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The WA Substance Users Association (WASUA) reports that it received 1, 486, 175 used needle and syringes at its exchange service in 2013/14 - a return rate of 98%. Clearly, most people who inject drugs are keen to safely dispose of used equipment - but what do you do if you find a discarded needle and syringe in a public place?

Don't Panic

A safe disposal box for used needles and syringes.

"Don't panic," says Mikayla-Jay McGinley, WASUA's Hepatitis C Educator and Safe Disposal Worker. "You're able to dispose of the needle and syringe with minimal risk."

Do Something - Here's How

If there isn't a safe disposal box nearby, the WA Department of Health offers clear instructions on how to safely dispose of needles and syringes.

"Needles and syringes should only be handled from the plunger end of the syringe and carefully placed in a rigid, plastic container that can be tightly sealed," says Mikayla-Jay. "Once sealed, you can then place the container into a domestic rubbish bin - not a recycling bin."

Contact WASUA
WASUA welcome calls about discarded needles and syringes because it helps them to learn more about people who could benefit from the information they offer.

"Most people who are using are up with information on blood-borne viruses and safer injecting habits," says Mikayla-Jay. "There are small pockets of users who may not have information about safer injecting and safe disposal, and we need to get information and resources out to those groups."

What Are The Risks?

According to the WA Department of Health, to date there hasn't been a documented case of a person contracting HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C from a needlestick injury that occurred in a community setting (such as a park or beach) in WA. The risk is considered to be very low.

While there is a minimal risk of infection from touching used needles and syringes, there may be people in the community - for example, children - who will not be aware of the risks or the distress that a needle stick injury could cause them or their family. Save someone else some stress and if you see a discarded needle or syringe, take care to dispose of it safely.

For people who inject drugs, it's important not to share any injecting equipment - not just needles and syringes - because the risk of blood-borne virus infection is higher.

Clean Needles & Syringes  - Information on Safer Injecting

 If you want to know where to go for clean needles and syringes, there are several options in metropolitan and regional WA.

The WA Substance Users' Association offers a needle and syringe exchange and other services in the Perth CBD. The WA AIDS Council also offers a mobile needle and syringe exchange in the Perth metropolitan area, while HepatitisWA also offer a needle and syringe program in Northbridge.

WASUA also offers needle and syringe exchange in the south west, while the South Metro Community Drug Service (Palmerston) operates an exchange in Mandurah and the Midwest Community Drug Service offers an exchange in Geraldton. A needle and syringe program is also available in the Great Southern through the Great Southern Community Alcohol and Drug Service (Palmerston). Check the Green Book Directory of Alcohol and other Drug and Mental Health Services in WA for contact details. Local hospitals, WA Health Population Health and chemists may also be able to help.

More Information

For more information about the safe disposal of needles and syringes, about safer injecting or blood-borne viruses, please contact the WA Substance Users Association on (08) 9321 2877.

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