Keeping Toronto neighbourhoods safe is our collective responsibility. Improperly discarded needles and harm reduction supplies found in our communities have been identified as a concern. In an effort to promote community safety, Toronto Public Health, along with many City and community partners, has implemented a variety of measures to address this area.
To date, there has been no reported transmission of HIV following injuries by needles discarded in the community.
Injury from used needles and syringes found in community settings can be concerning, especially when children find discarded needles and injure themselves while playing with them. The evidence shows that although the actual risk of infection from such an injury is extremely low, the perception of risk by parents results in much anxiety.
For more information, see recent statement from the Canadian Paediatric Society.
If You Pick Up Needles, Handle Them with Care
- Hold the needle tip away from you.
- Be careful not to prick yourself with the needle.
- Put the needle into a Sharps Container, a plaster container with a lid or a sealable container.
- Protect your hands.
- Use tongs to pick up the needle to transfer it to a sharps container.
- Ensure the needle tip is held away from you.
- If you do not have tongs, use puncture resistant gloves.
- If applicable, always follow your agency’s safer disposal of sharps policies and procedures.
The Proper Disposal of Needles Is Important
Outdoor needle drop boxes provide a safe and convenient way for people to dispose of used sharps in the community.
The City of Toronto will collect needles from City property. If needles are found on private property, please follow the guidelines for safe handling and disposal methods.
Needles found on or in:
- Roads, sidewalks, boulevards or in City laneways: contact 311 to submit a service request for pick-up.
- City parks: Do not touch or try to remove the object – report it at once to the park supervisor. All needles, sharp objects (i.e. “sharps”) and biohazards found in City parks and facilities are to be removed as soon as possible since the risk they pose to residents and staff is considerable. Contact 311 to be connected with the park supervisor.
- School property: Custodial staff check school property every morning for needles. If a needle is found they pick it up, place it in a sharps container and retain it in a safe location. The school board coordinates the collection of all sharps containers, from all schools, for proper disposal. If the needle is found during the day, report to the School Principal in the main office. If the needle is found after hours, call the School Boards After Hours or Emergency Number:
- Private property (this includes apartments, commercial buildings)
Individuals are responsible for disposal of sharps found on their residential property.
Property management of an apartment building/commercial building is responsible for picking up and disposing of discarded sharps found on the property.
- Used needles or syringes can be taken to a Household Hazardous Waste Depot.
To dispose of your own personal supplies
Through Toronto Public Health’s (TPH) needle exchange program, The Works, staff provide counselling, and distribution of harm reduction supplies including safer injection and smoking equipment. These supplies are available at 277 Victoria Street, during street outreach and through the Works mobile van. Clients can obtain new equipment and/or dispose of their used equipment.
TPH advises our clients to safely dispose of used needles and other drug use equipment and accept used equipment at The Works or at any of the 53 community agencies throughout the City of Toronto. There are also 22 needle drop boxes in areas across the city, including one located outside our site, which allows for people to safely dispose of drug use equipment when The Works is not open.
We train people who use drugs on how to safely dispose of syringes and provide sharps containers for them to safely store their used drug use equipment until they can return them to one of our locations.
TPH conducts outreach in neighborhoods twice a day from Monday to Saturday and once on Sunday to reach out to people who use drugs promoting safe disposal and to make people aware of our needle exchange program. TPH also respond to reports of discarded drug use equipment.