Amidst a nationwide opioid epidemic and in response to growing drug use in some of its bathrooms, Starbucks is installing needle-disposal boxes in select stores, the company confirmed Wednesday.
The move, first reported as an exclusive in Business Insider, comes several months after the Seattle-based coffee giant announced a policy of making its restrooms available to all—not just paying customers.
"These societal issues affect us all and can sometimes place our partners (employees) in scary situations, which is why we have protocols and resources in place to ensure our partners are out of harm's way,” a Starbucks spokesman told Restaurant Business. "I can't emphasize enough that if our partners are ever in a position where they don't feel comfortable completing a task, they are empowered to remove themselves from the situation and alert their manager. As we always do, we are constantly evaluating our processes and listening to partner feedback of ways we can be better."
Starbucks is also testing other ways to alleviate its workers’ fears of getting poked by needles, including using heavy-duty trash bags or eliminating bathroom trash cans all together, .
Decisions about whether to install the needle bins will be made on a store-by-store basis, the company said.
Several Starbucks employees said they’d discovered blood and needles in store bathrooms and others have said they’ve been stuck by dirty needles while taking out the trash, according to Business Insider.
More than 3,700 people had signed a Coworker.org petition as of Wednesday afternoon, urging Starbucks to put needle-disposal boxes in high-risk bathrooms.
“I work at a store in a major downtown city that has always had an issue with drug use in bathrooms,” one commenter on the petition wrote. “Since the new rule … went into place, the number of needles in our trash and on our floors has increased.”