The inappropriate disposal of sharps (needles, syringes), scalpels, razors and other blades and clinical waste, injecting equipment or any item contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids is a major concern to the ACT Government and Territory and Municipal Services (TAMS).
Intravenous drug users utilise a variety of needles, syringes (sharps) and injecting equipment which is classified as clinical waste once used, such as skin cleansing alcohol swabs; plastic tubes or bottles filled with water; and spoons or other small containers to hold and mix drugs.
Irresponsibly discarded sharps present the risk of needlestick injury to the public and employees. A needlestick injury has the potential to infect the person who received the injury with blood-borne infections such as Hepatitis B or C, or HIV. While the risk of contracting one of these blood-borne infections from a needlestick injury is very low, the collection and safe disposal of discarded sharps remains a high priority.
In order to ensure safe recreation and urban open space areas for the community, TAMS provides sharps disposal containers in all public toilets, inspects and cleans urban open spaces and provides a Sharps Hotline to collect sharps reported by the community from urban open space, lakes and ponds. Four sharps drop-off points are open from 8 am to 4 pm from Monday to Friday. These drop-off points are located at the CityScape Depots at: Allara Street, Canberra City; Botany Street, Phillip; Scollay Street, Greenway and Moubray Place, Belconnen.
As soon as a needle, syringe or any clinical waste is found in an area under the management of TAMS, either by an employee on a routine inspection or by a member of the public, it is reported and removed by a trained employee.
Public toilets are one of the more common places for intravenous drug users to inject drugs, so the provision of sharps disposal containers is essential for the responsible disposal of sharps and clinical waste. Also, the vast majority of injecting drug users are aware that disposal facilities are available in public toilets, so they are more likely to dispose of sharps and clinical waste in a responsible manner.
The Sharps Hotline (13 22 81) provides information and referral for any person who may have suffered a needlestick injury. It accepts reports from and provides information for anyone who has found a sharp, and passes on that information to the agency responsible for the removal of sharps. Alternatively, if the sharps are found on private land, the caller will be advised of the appropriate disposal procedures and given the location of the nearest sharps drop-off point.