Discarded Needles in Our Communities

Keeping Ottawa neighbourhoods safe is our collective responsibility. Improperly discarded needles, crack pipes, and other drug paraphernalia found in our communities have been identified as a serious concern. In an effort to promote community safety, Ottawa Public Health (OPH), along with numerous City and community partners, has implemented a variety of measures to address this issue.

Safe handling and disposal of needles

Children should never touch a discarded needle, crack pipe or other drug paraphernalia. 
If an adult chooses not to pick up a needle or crack pipe to safely dispose of them, call 3-1-1 to make arrangements to have the City pick them up immediately.

What to do if you find used needles, crack pipes or other drug paraphernalia 

  1. Treat all needles and crack pipes (glass stems) as contaminated.
  2. Wear gloves (i.e. latex, rubber or leather gardening gloves). Gloves are meant to protect against fluid contamination, not punctures or cuts.
  3. Use tongs, pliers or tweezers to pick up the needle. Be sure to clean and disinfect the pickup instrument afterwards.
  4. Pick up the needle by the plastic end (syringe).
  5. Point the needle tip away from your body. Be very careful not to poke yourself with the needle.
  6. Put the sharps disposal container on a stable surface next to the needle. Do not hold the container in your hand while placing the needle inside.
  7. Place the needle point down into the container. Do not force the needle into the container.
  8. If you do not have a specialized sharps container, put the needle into a non-breakable, puncture-proof container with a lid. (i.e. thick plastic bottle or tin can.)
  9. Close the container securely.
  10. Find the nearest needle disposal location. Do not flush needles down the toilet or put them in the garbage or recycling bin.
  11. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after removal of gloves.
  12. Important: If you have picked up used needles or other drug paraphernalia in your neighbourhood, please report these finds to Ottawa Public Health at needlereporting@ottawa.ca and indicate the following information:
    • Your name and contact information
    • What was found
    • How many
    • The exact or closest address to the pickup location
    • The date of the pickup

If a needle injury occurs, seek immediate medical attention.

Needle Drop Box Program

It is against the law to dispose of your needles, crack pipes (glass stems), or other sharps in the garbage or recycling (By-law 2009-396 Schedule J). As a result of this by-law, Ottawa Public Health created and administers the Needle Drop Box Program. This program provides Ottawa residents with secure and tamper-proof drop boxes located at 78 locations across the City to allow for the safe and convenient disposal of sharps. In 2015, approximately 876,765 needles were retrieved from the Needle Drop Boxes. For information on the safe handling and disposal of needles, please visit What to do with used needles and crack pipes or if you would like to inquire about obtaining a Needle Drop Box for your business or community, please call the Ottawa Public Health Information Line (OPHIL): 613-580-6744.

Needle Drop Box Locations

Location

Address

Aids Committee of Ottawa

19 Main Street

Bell Pharmacy

737 Gladstone Street

Capital Parking Lot

151 George Street

Carlington & Health Services

900 Merivale Road

Causeway

22 O'Meara Street

Centertown Community Health Centre

420 Cooper Street

Centre 507

507 Bank Street

Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario

401 Smyth Road

City of Ottawa - Bylaw Services

735 Industrial Avenue

City Of Ottawa - Mary Pitt Centre

100 Constellation Drive

City of Ottawa – Metcalfe Client Service Centre 

8243 Victoria Street, Metcalfe

City of Ottawa - OC Transpo

875 Belfast Road

Dulude Arena

941 Clyde Avenue

Elizabeth Bruyère Hospital

43 Bruyère Street

Fire Station

3845 Richmond Road

Fire Station

500 Charlemagne Boulevard

Fire Station

135 Preston Street

Fire Station

1075 Greenbank Road

Fire Station

380 Eagleson Road

Fire Station

1445 Carling Avenue

Fire Station

635 O'Connor Street

Fire Station

530 King Edward Avenue

Fire Station

1300 Woodroffe Avenue

Fire Station

1397 Richmond Road

Fire Station

230 Viewmount Drive

Fire Station

3336 McCarthy Drive

Fire Station

900 Industrial Avenue

Fire Station

2355 Alta Vista Drive

Fire Station

900 Montreal Road

Fire Station

6213 Jean D'Arc Boulevard

Fire Station

1700 Blair Road

Fire Station

275 Coventry Road

Fire Station

220 Beechwood Avenue

Fire Station

60 Knoxdale Road

Fire Station

3255 Conroy Road

Fire Station

700 Brookfield Avenue

Fire Station

1641 Stittsville Main Street

Fire Station

5669 Manotick Main Street

Fire Station

1021 Teron Road (Kanata North)

Lowertown - Murray @ Cumberland

207 Murray Street

Lowertown - York @ Nelson

278 York Street

Lowertown Community Resources Dental Health   Clinic

40 Cobourg Street

Medical Building 

737 Parkdale Avenue

Montfort Hospital 

713 Montreal Road

Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre

401 Somerset Street West

Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre

263 Montreal Road

Ontario Medical Supply

1100 Algoma Road

Ottawa Community Housing

415 Maclaren Street

Ottawa Community Housing

2100 Russell Road

Ottawa Community Housing

380 Murray Street

Ottawa Community Housing

251/255 Donald Street

Ottawa Community Housing

1400 Lepage Avenue

Ottawa Community Housing 

123 Augusta Street

Ottawa Community Housing - Bellevue Centre

1475 Caldwell Avenue

Ottawa Fertility Clinic

955 Green Valley Crescent

Ottawa Hospital Civic 

1053 Carling Avenue

Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus

190 Melrose Avenue

Ottawa Hospital General 

501 Smyth Road

Ottawa Hospital Riverside 

1967 Riverside Drive

Parking Garage 

141 Clarence Street

Public Works Garage

380 Catherine Street

Public Works Garage

1683 Woodward Avenue

Public Works Garage

320 Bloomfield Avenue

Public Works Garage

3100 Conroy Avenue

Public Works Garage

256 MacArthur Avenue

Public Works Garage

29 Hurdman Road

Queensway Carleton Hospital

3045 Baseline Road

Richmond IDA Pharmacy

6179 Perth Street

Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre 

1145 Carling Avenue

Saint Vincent Hospital

60 Cambridge Street North

Sandy Hill Community Health Centre

221 Nelson Street

Sexual Health Centre 

179 Clarence Street

Shepherds of Good Hope

256 King Edward Avenue

Shepherds of Good Hope 

230 Murray Street

Somerset West Community Health Centre 

55 Eccles Street

St. Margaret’s Church

206 Montreal Road

Stittsville IDA Pharmacy

1250 Stittsville Main Street

Vanier Snack Shack

200 Deschamps Avenue

Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health

299 Montreal Road

Pharmacies involved with the Take it Back! Program
Used needles, syringes and glass stems are prohibited in the regular garbage. These items can be taken to a Take it Back! partner by phoning ahead to the retailer before returning an item. 
Needle Hunters Program
The Needle Hunters Program is a major component of the City of Ottawa's corporate response to discarded needles, crack pipes, and other drug paraphernalia found in our communities. The Needle Hunters are a group of people who proactively search for and dispose of these items in priority neighbourhoods across the City. Their clean up routes are constantly monitored and adjusted in order to target areas of particular need.

In place since 1998, the Needle Hunters operate year-round, and work seven days a week. A Needle Hunters winter route was initiated in during the 2012-2013 winter season in many of the ByWard Market area parking garages and covered/accessible areas. Currently, they monitor/patrol the communities of:

  • ByWard Market/Lowertown
  • Centretown
  • Vanier
  • Carlington

In 2017, the Needle Hunters recovered 14,448 needles.

Working with City services to quickly respond to discarded needles

Ottawa Public Health works with other City departments through the City Contact Centre 3-1-1 to respond to requests for the pick-up of improperly discarded used needles. The City makes an effort to respond to all needle retrieval requests within one hour. In 2017, 921 needles were retrieved via collaborative action among City staff.

IMPORTANT: If you have picked up used needles or other drug paraphernalia in your neighbourhood, please report these finds to Ottawa Public Health at needlereporting@ottawa.ca and indicate the following information:

  • Your name and contact information
  • What was found
  • How many
  • The exact or closest address to the pickup location
  • The date of the pickup
Providing needle pickup and disposal training
Ottawa Public Health provides information and training to service providers and community groups on the safe handling and disposal of needles. For more information on the safe handling and disposal of needles, please see What to do with used needles and crack pipes or call the Ottawa Public Health Information line 613-580-6744 to arrange for a training session.
Working with individuals who use needles
 Ottawa Public Health operates the Site Clean Needle Syringe Program. This program operates on the harm reduction principle of providing clients with an adequate amount of sterile needles to meet their requirements for safe injecting. The main goal of this program is to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, primarily HIV and Hepatitis C, and minimize the risks associated with substance use in the greater community. Our Public Health professionals also educate intravenous drug users on how to dispose of needles safely and the risks of failing to do so. We provide them with sharps containers and information on various disposal locations. In 2017, the Site Clean Needle Syringe Program, including all of their partner agencies, retrieved approximately 430,731 discarded needles. For more information please visit the Site Needle & Syringe Program webpage.
Monitoring community needs and program effectiveness

Ottawa Public Health consults with a broad segment of the community on local needs and concerns, and carries out a number of initiatives to ensure the program's effectiveness including:

  • tracking the number of discarded needles and drug paraphernalia found in the City and directing our programs and resources to areas in need
  • tracking and analyzing local injury and disease rates
  • ongoing research including program evaluation and implementation of best practices
  • advocating for increased resources for needle clean-up and recovery programs.
Estimated number of needles retrieved

 

Needles retrieved

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Needle Drop Boxes

245,923

*923,870

824,110

941,866

876,763

1,298,680

1,269,366

Household Hazardous Waste Depots

148,233

99,500

 

96,334

198, 670

68, 666

81,666

147,665

Needles retrieved by City staff

1,978

1,195

751

3,037

1, 111

591

921

Needles picked up by Needle Hunters

6,349

8,325

7,645

13,046

17, 169

12,124

14,448

Site Program & partner agencies

435,448

404,128

428,538

451,284

453, 371

436,695

430,731

Total

837,931

1,437,018

1,357,379

1,607,899

1,417,080

1,829,756

1,863,131

* In 2012, in response to concerns that needle drop box figures underestimated the total number of needles retrieved out of the drop boxes, OPH implemented a more accurate method for calculating the contents of needle drop boxes, based on sharps weight from each box.

Please note that the collection from the Needle Drop Boxes and the Household Hazardous Waste Depots is an estimate and may include other sharps and/or drug paraphernalia, much of which is used for medicinal purposes. 

Estimated number of crack pipes retrieved

Crack pipes retrieved

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Crack pipes picked up by City staff

545

2

44

96

34

41

7

25

Crack pipes picked up by Needle Hunters

278

1,203

1, 064

1,271

1,558

1,421

1,928

1, 531

Total

823

1,205

1, 108

1,367

1,592

1,462

1,935  

1,556

 Please note that as of July 31, 2007, Ottawa Public Health no longer distributes sterile crack pipes or safer inhalation equipment.

Improperly discarded needles retrieved by ward by City staff and Needle Hunters

Ward

Total Item Count

1

13

2

0

3

1

4

0

5

0

6

62

7

19

8

1

9

2

10

2

11

2

12

12,819

13

69

14

1791

15

18

16

492

17

29

18

8

19

2

20

0

21

13

22

10

 

*Undetermined Ward = 16

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