Generally, people who inject drugs dispose of their used injecting equipment appropriately. However, used needles and syringes are occasionally found in parks and other public places. This can create concern for people in the community who find them.
In Western Australia, used needles and syringes can be safely disposed of by:
- Returning to a needle and syringe exchange program (currently operated in the metropolitan area and the south-west by the WA Substance Users’ Association, in the metropolitan area by the WA AIDS Council , in
- Mandurah by the South Metro Community Drug Service – Palmerston Mandurah, and in Geraldton by the Midwest Community Drug Service).
- Placing in a special needle and syringe disposal unit provided by some local governments or businesses.
- Arranging for a waste disposal company to assist in the disposal of large quantities of needles and syringes. (See ‘Waste Disposal’ in the Yellow Pages).
If none of the above is possible, used needles and syringes may be disposed of in the domestic waste in a rigid-walled, puncture resistant plastic container with a screw-top lid.
If you find a discarded needle and syringe:
- Do not be alarmed.
- Get a rigid-walled, puncture resistant, plastic container with a well-secured lid, preferably screw top. Avoid using glass which can shatter, aluminium that can be squashed or frosted plastic that may not be puncture-proof.
- Bring the container to the needle and syringe, and place on the ground next to the needle and syringe. Do not hold the container as you are putting the syringe in it.
- Pick up the used needle and syringe by the blunt end, away from the point. Do not touch the sharp point.
- Do not try to put the plastic protective cap back on a needle if it has been removed.
- Put the needle and syringe, point first into the container. More than one needle and syringe can be placed in the container, but do not overfill. Do not carry the needle and syringe unless it is in a suitable container.
- Make sure the container is tightly sealed.
- Put the sealed container in a domestic rubbish bin. Do not put needles and syringes down toilets, in recycling bins or post boxes.
- If you accidently prick yourself with the needle, please refer to Needle Stick injury information. Call the Environmental Health Officer if unwilling to collect.
Treating needlestick injuries
In Western Australia to date there has not 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), and the risk is considered to be very low.
If someone is injured by a discarded needle and syringe, do not panic. Take reasonable care and follow these steps:
- Wash the area gently with soap and running tap water as soon as possible.
- Apply an antiseptic and a clean dressing.
- Obtain prompt medical advice from your local doctor or hospital emergency department, preferably within 24 hours.
- Dispose of the needle safely.