Starbucks Is Adding Needle-Disposal Boxes to Store Bathrooms

Helen Murphy

Following a flood of worker concerns, Starbucks is adding needle-disposal boxes to bathrooms in some of its locations.

According to Business Insider, the boxes have been added to bathrooms in at least 25 markets across the United States. The company is aiming to install them “in all regions where such action has been deemed necessary” by the summer, the outlet reported. Managers will also be able to put in a request to have a box for their store.

The move comes after Starbucks was fined $3,100 by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Business Insider reports. The OSHA opened an investigation in 2018 after two employees were stuck by hypodermic needles at a Eugene, Oregon store.

The boxes provide a safe place to dispose of used needles, and minimize the chance that an employee would be accidentally pricked by a needle while taking out the trash or cleaning the bathroom. If pricked, the employee would need medication to protect against HIV, hepatitis and other viruses that the needle could carry.

“My primary fear when I worked there would be taking out the bathroom garbages,” a former Starbucks employee told Business Insider. “I was terrified that if I went to take the bag out, I would get poked by a needle I didn’t know was there.”

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In 2018, a Starbucks employee created an online petition calling for needle-disposal boxes in “high-risk” bathrooms. As of Tuesday, the petition has over 5,000 signatures.

“Employees risk getting poked, and DO get poked, even when following ‘protocol’ of using gloves and tongs to dispose of used needles left in bathrooms, tampon disposal boxes, and diaper changing stations,” the petition read. “It costs almost two thousand dollars just for one round of after-exposure shots, not including other tests, shots, medications, etc.”

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Some employees told Business Insider that the issue had become worse since the company began their open-bathroom policy in 2018, but others disagreed.

“I think the biggest and boldest move that Starbucks leaders can do right now is step aside from the potential political problems behind needle-disposal boxes in restrooms and give it a nationwide launch,” another Starbucks employee told the outlet.