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York shop staff told by city council to return used needles to street

Image credit: The Yorker
Image credit: The Yorker
Image credit: The Yorker

The Yorker has been made aware of an incident over the Autumn half-term in which staff at a confectionary shop in the centre of York were forced to leave discarded needles outside the premises, when the City of York Council refused to collect them from private property.

The student informer, an employee at the shop who wishes both themselves and the shop not to be named, said that on the Monday of the week, they were approached by a member of the public who had noticed a discarded needle by the window of the shop. With it being half-term, the staff in the shop were particularly concerned for the welfare of young children, so removed it using ordinary gloves.

Once inside the shop, the staff contacted the North Yorkshire Police on the non-emergency number for advice. Upon doing so, they were told not to dispose of the needle in general waste, and instead that they should contact the City of York Council to arrange a safe disposal.

However, the staff were told by the Council that needles can only be collected from public spaces. As such, the Council could not collect the needle from the property. Instead, the staff were told to return it to the street, regardless of the threat posed to children.

With it being late in the afternoon, both the shop and the City of York services were shortly to close for the evening, and consequently the needle would potentially be left overnight. After explaining this to the Council, once again, they stated that it had to be left outside to await collection, much to the distress of staff in the shop.

After being unable to find a private company that would collect the needle, and following making contact with the area manager of the shop, the staff were left with no other choice but to follow the Council’s advice, though they were advised to seal it in a safely-wrapped black bag and put it in a place out of reach of children.

Although the needle was collected the next morning, the staff were concerned by the response. As our source said, there was frustration amongst the staff that “we couldn’t just have deal with the problem in a straightforward and 100% safe manner.”

When pressed for comment, the respondent from the City of York Council said that staff have to abide by general guidelines regarding the procedure to deal with such items. In addition, she provided a link to the Council website page on handling litter which reads: “if you see syringes or needles contact us. We will arrange for their removal as a priority. Removal will occur within two hours of notification to the contractor.”

However, the Council has promised to investigate the details that The Yorker has passed on to review their handing of the matter.