Indianapolis residents report people digging through trash for used needles

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Neighbors on the southeast side of Indianapolis say somebody has been digging through their trash, apparently looking for discarded used needles.

The most recent report came Saturday afternoon in the 1500 block of Randolph Street.  A 73-year-old woman called police to tell them somebody had dumped her trash can out in an alley behind her house.  The woman, who is diabetic, told police the person who went through the trash took all of the needles she had used for her injections.  And she’s not the only one who says they’ve had their trash rifled through.

“It’s one thing to go dumpster diving and looking for an old chair,” said neighbor, Robin Hadley.  “But for someone to fine tooth comb your trash is creepy.”

Hadley, who is also a nurse, suspects drug users are responsible the mess being made on her street.

“They’re probably using them for drugs,” Hadley said.  “I doubt they’re using them for diabetes.”

Pam Thevenow, Administrator for Water Quality and Hazardous Materials Management with the Marion County Health Department, says people digging through trash for needles is more common than most people realize.  Especially, she says, since the recent surge of heroin use in central Indiana.

Thevenow says the health department has been working on the problem of used needle disposal since the early 2000s, partially as a response to sanitation workers being stuck by needles thrown away in trash.

Although there are Indiana laws that dictate how hospitals and other medical facilities dispose of used needles, Thevenow says there are no laws against individuals throwing needles away in the trash.

But, she and other health officials recommend avoiding throwing needles in the trash, and using the county’s free disposal program instead.  The Marion County Health Department offers free needle disposal boxes that can be picked up and exchanged at three different locations around the Indianapolis area.

We give them an empty container, when it’s full, they bring it back to the office,” Thevenow said.  “We take it, we give them an empty one.  And we can just keep doing it as long as they need the service.”

Thevenow says the county currently has about 600 people who participate in the needle disposal program.

The Indianapolis locations where boxes can be obtained and exchanged are:

Northwest District Health Office

Pecar Health Center

6940 Michigan Rd

(317) 221-7500


Northeast District Health Office

6042 E. 21st St

(317) 221-7300


South District Health Office

505 National Ave.

(317) 221-5700

The Marion County Health Department has information and recommendations about disposing of needles listed on its website.  You can find that information here.

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