So you found used needles while near a trail or an alley near your business. What should you do?
If you want to get rid of them – and learn how to do so safely – get a free kit from the Whatcom County Health Department.
Public health officials have started to provide the kits at the request of local businesses and community organizations who find discarded needles on public and private property.
“Needles do commonly show up in places where injection drug users associate, such as public areas, behind businesses, alleys and encampment areas,” said Melissa Morin, spokeswoman for the Whatcom County Health Department.
Used needles thrown on the ground are a nuisance and a concern because diseases like Hepatitis C could be spread if someone is poked while picking them up.
Morin said the health department has been getting requests primarily from groups and businesses in downtown Bellingham. “But we have had a couple of requests from rural areas of the county as well,” she added.
The idea is to supplement larger cleanups that county and Bellingham governments do on public property, such as parks and trails, Morin said.
So the kits are for people who want to clean up a small number of needles they find discarded on their private property or near their property, such as an alley behind a business.
“The county couldn’t provide a cleanup service in those cases, and this also empowers business owners to respond immediately rather than needing to wait for someone to come to provide a cleanup service,” Morin said. “For example, the manager of a childcare center or after-school program would want to clean up any needles immediately rather than waiting for a response.”
There are about 120 kits available, each costing less than $10.
Money for the pilot program is coming from the county’s solid waste management fund. It’s part of the health department’s response to opioid abuse.
Each kit includes instructions, puncture-resistant gloves, safety glasses and tongs for picking up the needles and putting them into a container.
Full containers can then be returned for free for appropriate disposal.
Pick up the kits at the Whatcom County Health Department, 1500 N. State St. during business hours.