Sharps container outside of the public restroom in Old Town Eureka | Stephanie McGeary

If you’ve been near Eureka’s public restrooms in Old Town or under the Samoa Bridge lately, you may have noticed a new addition — a locked, metal box, marked “sharps disposal only.” The City of Eureka recently installed sharps containers at these two locations, in the hopes that they will help decrease the number of syringes discarded on the ground.

The installation was, at least in part, prompted by a suggestion from Eureka City Councilmember Kati Moulton. “I asked the City Manager if perhaps needle litter could be reduced in the same way we reduce other litter: by providing appropriate receptacles,” Moulton posted on her Facebook page. “He’s a science guy, so he said, ‘Let’s try it.’”

Eureka City Manager Miles Slattery told the Outpost that city staff installed the two sharps containers a couple of weeks ago and that it already seems like they are getting some use. City maintenance staff has been checking the bins daily, emptying them at least once a week and keeping track of the number of needles collected, Slattery said. If the bins continue to get regular use and aren’t vandalized, the city will consider installing more. “We’re thinking about parks potentially,” he said.

The new sharps contianers at public restrooms under the Samoa Bridge (left) and in Old Town (right) | Photos from the City of Eureka, provided by Councilmember Kati Moulton

With needle litter being such a frequently discussed topic in Eureka, one might wonder why the City hasn’t tried this solution sooner. Well, Slattery said that the Old Town bathrooms did previously have a sharps container, but the City removed it after it was repeatedly vandalized and severely damaged. These new containers are fabricated from quarter-inch stainless steel, Slattery said, and are designed to be much sturdier than the last one.

Though needle litter is a product of a much more complex issue, Councilmember Moulton hopes that this small change will help address some of the environmental and safety concerns of the public.

“Whenever the subject of  needle exchange comes up, it seems like there’s this dichotomy between addressing the public health issue and addressing the environmental concerns,” Moulton told the Outpost. “So I thought just addressing the environmental issue separately might help.”