Reining in the sharps

Nine more boxes to dispose of used syringes should be in place in downtown Red Deer by June.

Nine more boxes to dispose of used syringes should be in place in downtown Red Deer by June.

In 2004, Central Alberta AIDS Network Society converted two Canada Post mail boxes into secure biohazard containers to reduce the number of used syringes left on the ground by people injecting street drugs.

The boxes are also an easy, safe disposal system for anyone who uses syringes for medical purposes, like diabetes.

“The boxes have been fabricated. Today, they’re going to get sandblasted and then they will go in for vinyl art,” said executive director Jennifer Vanderschaeghe with Central Alberta AIDS Network Society on Tuesday.

Canada Post didn’t have any old boxes so similar boxes were built, standing about 1.3 metres tall.

The project is a partnership between CAANS, the city, the Downtown Business Association, RCMP and some anonymous contributors.

All of the boxes will be located on city land on the edge of the downtown park system. Locations were determined in consultation with the city and former and current drug users.

Locations aren’t necessarily where people use drugs, but areas they travel in the downtown, Vanderschaeghe said.

New locations include Barrett Park and Snell Gardens, as well as in front of the CAANS office at 4611-50th Ave.

They won’t be located near children’s parks, she said.

The older boxes are located at 49th Street and 51st Avenue, in the alley near the downtown Arlington Hotel and at Rotary Recreational Park, adjacent to the Golden Circle.

New drop boxes will be decorated with designs by local artist Paul Boultbee. They will be bolted into cement with signage to let people know they are not postal boxes.

A total of 282 syringes, 402 lancets for diabetic testing, and 18 pieces of random drug debris were dropped in the boxes from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009.

CAANS currently hands out 7,000 needles per month to help reduce the spread of disease. Not all syringes are dropped off in the boxes. But having more boxes in convenient locations could increase the number that end up in the boxes,” Vanderschaeghe said.

“In Red Deer, we haven’t had tons of problems with needle debris compared to other large urban centres. Part of that, I hope, is we’re being proactive about it.”

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