Needle and syringe programs: your questions answered

What is the government doing about discarded needles and syringes?

Page last updated: 2005

Responsibility for dealing with discarded injecting equipment varies in each state and territory. Many have employed a partnership approach to this issue. Agencies which work together include state and territory health departments, local and non-local government organisations, pharmacies, drug and alcohol services, drug user organisations and Police.

Several measures have been introduced to reduce the number of discarded needles and syringes. Needle and Syringe Program workers encourage clients to dispose of injecting equipment safely and visit areas where drug use is occurring to collect discarded injecting equipment. Needle and Syringe Programs will also respond to telephone calls from the general public to collect discarded injecting equipment.

Most jurisdictions operate Needle Clean Up Hotlines which members of the public can telephone for information on how to remove needles and syringes from public places. Generally, these hotlines operate 24 hours and can arrange for the collection and disposal of needles and syringes within 48 hours. A list of contacts can be found at the back of this booklet. Alternatively, local councils may provide this service. Some local councils have installed special syringe disposal bins in public spaces and commercial premises and encourage pharmacies to receive used needles and syringes. Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and many other cities across Australia have introduced plans to manage inappropriately discarded needles and syringes and have increased the number of disposal bins in areas where injecting drug use occurs. The installation of needle and syringe disposal bins does not encourage drug use but it does significantly reduce inappropriate disposal.

All states and territories have litter management legislation that makes it an offence to discard needles and syringes in public areas.

  • The public can telephone a Needle Clean Up Hotline or local council for information on how to remove needles and syringes from public places.

  • Needle and Syringe Programs provide disposal facilities and encourage drug users to dispose of used injecting equipment properly.

  • Dedicated disposal bins reduce needle and syringe litter without encouraging drug use.