New online reporting tool makes cleaning up used needles in Regina much easier

·2 min read
New online reporting tool makes cleaning up used needles in Regina much easier
A new website will look to make the job of cleaning up used needles in Regina easier for workers and the general public.  (Fuat Seker/CBC - image credit)
A new website will look to make the job of cleaning up used needles in Regina easier for workers and the general public. (Fuat Seker/CBC - image credit)

A Regina charity has launched a new way to report and get rid of needles found outside in the Queen City.

The new online tool reportneedles.ca is the brainchild of Luke Towers, a Regina-based web developer, and AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan.

The idea can be traced back to a 24-hour hackathon in 2019 where participants sought to create computer-based solutions for a specific issue.

Amanda Sauer is the education co-ordinator with AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan. She said organizers of the hackathon selected the charity organization in 2019 and one of the issues they wanted a solution for was needle reporting.

"Luke [Towers] developed the needle pickup app to solve the little needle in a haystack issue that we have," Sauer told CBC's The Morning Edition on Thursday.

A helpful tool for a difficult problem

AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan normally picks up needles in Regina communities.

The charity receives tips throughout the day from people and workers are dispatched to clean up.

Sometimes they are even called in by the City of Regina.

It's still literally finding a needle in a haystack. - Amanda Sauer, AIDS Program South Saskatchewan

But Sauer said people's directions can sometimes be hard to decipher.

"Usually the kind of directions we're given, as awesome as they are, it's 'OK, at the stop sign to the left, there's a tree and then like 15 paces west and then like, it's just down below next to the leaf," she said.

"That's great, but it's still literally finding a needle in a haystack."

The website and the program behind it is making that job easier.

It allows the charity to pinpoint the exact location of the needle. The person reporting the syringe can upload a picture that shows the charity exactly where to look or how many they're looking for.

The website also provides a helpful step-by-step instruction for people who may want to dispose of the needle themselves.

Towers said he's happy to see his creation get up and running.

"It's always good when you get actual users using the product, because then you can come across the actual problems that are going to run into and then kind of address them as they come up. Just continually improve it," he said. "I mean, it's set up so that I can eventually add more cities and regions to it. So the more the merrier."

Sauer said the organizations is piloting the service in Regina, but that it is a technology that organizations in other parts of Canada can also use.