Boston’s Syringe Buy-Back Program Collects 580,000 Needles

A new program in Boston has collected more than 580,000 used syringes since its launch in December 2020.

“When we started, we had hoped to collect 1,000 needles a week,” says Allie Hunter, co-founder of Addiction Response Resources. “And we collect an average of about 17,000 a week, and last week we collected 30,000.”

Unlike other sharps collection programs in the city, Addiction Response Resources offers cash for syringes. Participants, who must sign up and give their names, earn 20 cents per syringe with a maximum of $10 per day.

“People are really creative and resourceful,” says Hunter. “It’s usually a combination of their needles and needles they collect, so it’s been really positive.”

Used syringes have been a major health issue in Boston for years, but locals say the problem worsened during the pandemic.

Since the launch of Hunter’s program, emergency calls regarding used syringes have dropped by nearly 50%.

“It’s certainly keeping the area cleaner,” says Devin Larkin, director of the Recovery Services Bureau of the Boston Public Health Commission. “People are taking more ownership of this issue in the neighborhood, which I love to see. When you see a syringe on the ground, somebody picks it up almost right away.”

Addiction Response Resources is not advertised in Boston and functions entirely on word of mouth. The program is based out of a trailer parked on Atkinson Street near a local addiction help center.

Due to its success in collecting more used syringes than any other program in the city, Addiction Response Resources received $388,000 from the city to operate through 2022.

Addiction Response Resources also provides participants with naloxone (a drug that can prevent death in the case of opioid overdose) and referrals for help with mental health issues and drug abuse.

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