Needle Exchange Programs and Safe Disposal

Needle exchange programs (NEPs) are a harm reduction strategy that aims to reduce the potential health, social, and economic effects associated with drug use -- meeting people who use substances where they are at.

Sharing needles and other drug equipment or reusing drug equipment can put individuals at risk of getting an infection, such as group A streptococcal disease, hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and HIV. Needle exchange programs help to reduce these risks by providing individuals with new and sterile harm reduction supplies, including:

  • Sterile unused needles
  • Safe inhalation pipes
  • Sharps containers
  • Ties and cookers
  • Alcohol swaps, sterile water, and filters
  • Naloxone

Programs also offer needle disposal bins, a place to return used needles, to be disposed of safely. Educational resources regarding harm reduction strategies are also provided.

Find Needle Exchange Programs in Windsor-Essex County

Needle exchange programs available in Windsor-Essex County are located at:

Frequently Asked Questions About Needle Exchange Programs (NEPs) [1,2]

  • The overall effects of needle exchange programs have been largely positive and beneficial. The prevalence of diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV decreases with sterile supplies and safe injection sites. These programs also help to decrease the high cost of treating these infections. Through NEPs, overdose-related mortality and morbidity are also reduced, helping save countless lives.
  • Studies evaluating the impact of NEPs found that cities without NEPs have significantly higher rates of improperly disposed syringes. Another study concluded that the average needle return rate was about 90%, with some regions seeing as much as 112% of needles returned. Together, they demonstrate that NEPs are an effective solution to addressing the problem of improperly discarded supplies.
  • Yes. Nonsterile injections can lead to the transmission of HIV, Hepatitis C, bacterial, and fungal infections, and other complications. By providing access to sterile syringes and other injection equipment, NEPs help people who inject drugs prevent the transmission of bloodborne and other infections.
  • Access to sterile injection equipment can also help to prevent life-threatening, and costly health problems, such as infections of the heart valves (endocarditis), serious skin infections, and deep tissue abscesses. Primary care services offered through NEPs can catch these problems early and provide easy-to-access treatment to a population that may be reluctant to go to a hospital or seek other medical care.
  • No. Studies show that NEPs protect the public by providing safe needle disposal and reduce the presence of needles in the community. The rate at which needles are turned in is often the same as or higher than the rate at which they are handed out.
  • No. Evidence shows that NEPs do not cause or increase illegal drug use. They do not cause or increase crime.
  • Yes. NEPs reduce health care costs by preventing HIV, viral hepatitis, and other infections, including endocarditis, a life-threatening heart valve infection.
  • NEPs play a key role in preventing overdose deaths by training people who inject drugs how to prevent, rapidly recognize, and reverse opioid overdoses. Specifically, many NEPs give clients and community members “overdose rescue kits” and teach them how to identify an overdose, give rescue breathing, and administer Naloxone, a medication used to reverse an overdose.
  • NEPs help people overcome substance use disorders. If people who inject drugs use an NEP, they are more likely to enter treatment for substance use disorder and reduce or stop injecting. A Seattle study found that new users of NEPs were five times as likely to enter drug treatment as those who didn’t use the programs. People who inject drugs and who have used an NEP regularly are nearly three times as likely to report reducing or stopping illicit drug injection as those who have never used an NEP.

Safe Needle Disposal [3,4,5]

I found a what?

  • If the needle was found on:
    • On my property
      • Landlords or property managers who find large quantities of needles may wish to contact a private biohazard company for removal and disposal and consider installing sharps disposal bins in public areas. See below for how to obtain a sharps container.
      • For data collection (City of Windsor only), report needle find to 3-1-1.
    • City of Windsor property
      • Contact the City of Windsor at 3-1-1 to report the needle and arrange for disposal.
    • Essex County property
      • Outside of the City of Windsor, please follow the Steps for Safe Needle Disposal found below.

How do I safely dispose of needles?

  1. Treat all needles and drug equipment as contaminated. Do not try to recap the needle or break the tip off.
  2. Put on gloves (latex, garden, or vinyl) to protect yourself from fluid contamination. (These gloves won’t protect against punctures or cuts).
  3. Using tongs or tweezers, pick up needle by the middle of the plastic tube (syringe) with the sharp end facing down. If there are multiple needles, pick them up one at a time.
  4. Place the needle-sharp end first into a sharps container or a puncture-proof, sealable container. Close the container tightly.
  5. Remove gloves and wash hands with warm soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
  6. Dispose of containers at sharps disposal bins (throughout the City of Windsor) or at your local pharmacy.

Do not:

  • Throw loose sharps in garbage.
  • Put sharps in recycling bin.
  • Flush sharps down toilet.
  • Throw sharps in bushes, parks, or streets.

How do I obtain a sharps container and what do I do when it’s full?

  • You can obtain a sharps container from your local pharmacy at no cost. Once the container is full, you can return it as part of a free take-back program. Find a collection location here for a list of participating pharmacies in your area.

24-Hour Sharps Disposal Bin Locations

You can drop off your used sharps at any 24-hour sharps disposal bins located outdoors at:

  • Street Health, Windsor Essex Community Health Centre – 711 Pelissier Street
  • Parking Lot, Windsor-Essex County Health Unit – 962 Pelissier Street
  • Parking Lot, Windsor-Essex County Health Unit – 972 Goyeau Street
  • Pozitive Pathways Community Services – 511 Pelissier Street
  • Bruce Park - east side of park facing Church Street
  • Wigle Park – 1037 McDougall Street (west side of park)
  • Windsor Waterworld Community Centre – 400 Wyandotte Street East
  • Community Housing, Marentette Neighbourhood – interior courtyard (behind Waterworld)
  • Fire Headquarters – 815 Goyeau Street at Elliot (on Dufferin Place)
  • Senator Croll Park – west side facing Goyeau
  • Downtown Transit Terminal – 300 Chatham Street West
  • Ford City Parkette – corner of Whelpton and Drouillard
  • Riverfront – 620 Riverside Drive West (beside Caron Avenue Pumping Station)
  • Campbell Cottages – 1100 Campbell Avenue (back parking lot of Community Housing Complex)
  • Municipal Parking Lot #6 – behind 1033 Wyandotte Street East (between Langois and Marion)

You can also search for a community disposal bin in your area/community.


[1] Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres. (2023). Why is Canada’s needle exchange program important. Retrieved from

[2] KG. Card, B. Pauly, M. Gagnon, B. Wallace, K. Urbanoski (2019) An evidence brief: Needle and syringe exchange programs. Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research. Retrieved from

[3] The City of Windsor. (2023). Sharps and syringe disposal. Retrieved from

[4] Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. (2023). Safe needle disposal. Retrieved from

[5] Safe Needle (2023). FAQs. Retrieved from