Take Back Santa Cruz

County’s Sharps Take Back Ordinance – Latest Update and Important Resources

Take Back Santa Cruz’s Needle Solution Team recently reached out to Tim Goncharoff with the County of Santa Cruz to find out the latest on the Pharmaceuticals and Sharps Disposal/Take Back Program.

The primary objective of this ordinance is to ensure that all County residents have access to safe, convenient, and sustainably financed collection and take back options for properly disposing unwanted pharmaceutical and sharps waste.

In June of 2014, Take Back Santa Cruz registered their support of this program in an email to the County Board of Supervisors

Dear County of Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors

Take Back Santa Cruz’s Needles Solutions Team wishes to register its support for the local sharps ordinance you will be considering at your meeting on Tuesday, June 24, 2014.  The ordinance would require the establishment of a sharps waste management program by all businesses selling or dispensing sharps within the unincorporated County.

As you know, we have a severe problem with needles being improperly discarded in public spaces around the County.  Over 5,000 dirty needles have been found in the last year and a half alone, and at least seven people have suffered needle stick injuries.  While this ordinance will not address the bigger issue of drug addicts tossing their needles wherever they have shot up, it is sure to keep at least some needles off the streets and out of trash cans.  Since pharmacies sell and distribute needles, it makes sense that they should bear some responsibility for needle waste disposal.  Pharmacy disposal sites are also preferable to public kiosks placed in neighborhoods where citizens may object to them.  

Thank you.
Needles Solutions Team
Take Back Santa Cruz

Here is the latest response from the County on progress made.

The program is still transitioning from being run by the County to being run by MedProject, the company set up by the pharmaceutical industry to operate these programs.  They are now fully in charge of collecting medicines, but have not quite completed the transition for sharps.  Because the local cities each passed their own ordinances at different times, they are all being brought into the new system as their ordinances take effect.  This process should be complete soon, so that might be a good time for you to conduct your survey.

I can share a little information that applies to most or all of the participating locations.

Where there are collection kiosks, they are open whenever the pharmacy is open.  In cases where the pharmacy is located inside another store, such as at Target, Safeway, etc., the kiosks will be locked when the pharmacy is closed, even if the store is open.  Some of the pharmacies have opted to provide free pre-paid mailback containers instead of hosting a kiosk.

These are also available whenever the pharmacy is open.  Hours vary from store to store.  Med kiosks at Police and Sheriff stations are generally open 24-hours, although some of the smaller locations do close to the public at some times. 

Needles must always be in a safe disposal container.  As with medicines, safe and sturdy free mailback containers will be available at most pharmacies soon.  The sharps kiosks located at the County Courthouse and at the two county medical facilities in Santa Cruz and Watsonville will continue to be open 24-hours.  The ordinances passed by the County and the local cities all stipulate that we can require additional public sharps disposal locations, but to my knowledge none have yet been requested. 

MedProject has set up web sites for the County and each of the local cities where more information can be found.  These are still under construction, but you can see the county’s here:


There will also soon be an outreach and education campaign to inform residents of the availability of this service.  That should begin within the next few months.

I hope this is helpful.  Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Tim Goncharoff

County of Santa Cruz

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