Northern Ireland

Belfast public toilet needle disposal bins for drug users

Sharps disposal Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Five needle bins have been installed in public toilets in Belfast

Needle bins to allow injecting drug users to safely dispose of used syringes have been installed in five public toilets in Belfast city centre.

The Public Heath Agency scheme aims to reduce the number of needles found by cleaners and members of the public.

The first bin was installed on the Dublin Road at the end of 2014.

Since then, four more have been put in public toilets in Custom House Square, Lombard Street, the Gasworks site and on the Antrim Road.

There is also a trial site on Winetavern Street.

Image caption The first needle bin in Belfast was installed at the public toilet on the Dublin Road

The needle bins are small silver plaques sited on the wall with the words "sharps disposal" on them.

There is a hole in the middle to allow people to dispose of used needles in a secure container.

The council said they are also designed to be used by people with medical conditions such as diabetes.

'Positive thing'

The initiative was welcomed by Jake, a former injecting drug user, who spoke to the BBC.

"It's a safe place to dispose of any sharps so there's no debris left around in toilets and public places - it's really quite a progressive move," he said.

"I think people have this image of injecting drug users as dangerous criminals, and we're not.

"We're just normal people who use drugs and we want to keep people as safe as possible.

"Our drug addiction is our own, and if we can protect the general public from harm then that's a very positive thing."

Sinn Féin councillor Stephen Corr, chairman of the council's health and environmental services committee, said they were responding to public demand.

"Unfortunately we have a drug issue here in Belfast, and we want to have a safe mechanism to deal with these needles and sharps," he said.

Mr Corr said the bins may be put in other toilets in the city, including in parks.

"We're keeping an eye on it to see if any other hotspots for drug taking emerge in the city - we will act where we have to," he said.

"We will keep an eye on other parks like Botanic and Ormeau as that seems to be where users are gravitating towards."

"If we need to put them in there, we will do it to respond to the need where appropriate."

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