Starbucks Adding Bathroom Needle Disposal


MARCH 30, 2019

Edited by Editorial Team

Editorial Team

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Starbucks Adding Bathroom Needle Disposal

Starbucks is somewhat of a branding phenomenon and known for its ability to be ahead of the curve in terms of employee satisfaction and customer loyalty. Their new frontier, while a little more sobering, is nonetheless important. As the opioid epidemic digs its heels further into society, Starbucks is adding a bathroom needle disposal program into some of their locations.


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Starbucks Has Global and Social Prominence

As a company, Starbucks has dominated and, in many ways, revolutionized the coffee chain industry. Starbucks is the third largest restaurant chain in terms of number of locations (over 28 thousand, according to Wikipedia). Their locations are not restricted to just the US either; they are located around the globe including Tokyo, Japan.

Starbucks remains socially and environmentally conscious and promotes many initiatives in its efforts to do so. They keep tabs on their water consumption as well as their paper waste and are diligent about their recycling policies. Starbucks also offers health benefits to part-time employees.

The above examples make it clear that Starbucks makes a strong effort to remain at the forefront of social, economic and political issues. Thus, it should come as no surprise that their latest effort moves to address the growing opioid epidemic. Many people and businesses would prefer to ignore this problem or sweep under the rug the far-reaching impact of such a problem.

A quick look at what lead to the Needle Disposal:

-After a much publicized, highly embarrassing incident involving two men arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks for “loitering,” Starbucks was accused of being racially insensitive. The company went through great pains to change their policy and allow anyone in their establishments to use their restrooms—whether they are paying customers or not.

-As a result of this new policy, employees report finding used hypodermic needles in the bathroom of certain Starbucks locations.

-Many employees are fearful over their health. Being pricked by a used needle leaves them vulnerable to diseases like Hepatitis and HIV.

-The cost of follow up medical treatment required after such an exposure falls squarely on the backs of the employees. Employees will initially pay out of pocket for any procedures before insurance will kick in. Costs can reach up to two thousand dollars per incident.

-Worried about health risks and financial hardships caused by unexpected needle exposure, employees started a petition at to demand that action be taken. It has received 3,800 signatures thus far.

Starbucks announced that it would start adding bathroom needle disposals in high need locations where the hypodermic needle finding incidents are highest.

What Does Needle Disposal Entail:

Many needles were being left out in the open. The ones that were thrown out could potentially puncture garbage bags and gloves of Starbucks employees. Even following proper disposal protocol, incidents of employees being poked by needles were still being reported.

There is a certain type of “sharp disposal box” that will keep the needles contained and prohibit the ends of the needles from puncturing through. It’s a much safer way to keep employee exposure and risk to a minimum.


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New Policy Carries a Message of Inclusion and Equal Responsibility

This new policy is important because it is indicative of Starbucks embracing all types of clientele. Many businesses would worry that such clientele would bring a bad face to their brand. By implementing the sharp boxes, Starbucks is both keeping the well being of their employees at the forefront while simultaneously being open minded about the lifestyles of their customers. Starbucks progressive actions on such a sensitive topic seem to make it a judgment free establishment.

The ethics of the new policy are equally notable. In announcing the program, Starbucks emphatically states, “these societal issues affect us all.”

There is research to support the idea that the problems, and more importantly, the solutions, fall on everybody: according to CBS News, a survey conducted at the NYU Center for Drug Use and HIV Research found that 58 percent of New York City business managers came across drug use. Furthermore, 14 percent of those managers had actually found someone unconscious in their establishments. These numbers suggest that this problem isn’t going away any time soon.

When a company like Starbucks overtly addresses such an issue, major steps are being taken towards de-stigmatizing the “addict.” One may assume that those suffering with addictions are not your typical Starbucks clients.

This new policy by such a popular brand underscores the idea that addiction really is indiscriminate. It can effect all locations, all demographics and all levels of the social strata. Thus, the fight must be equally as thorough. In keeping with this idea, a holistic approach to rehabilitation is a must. If this type of program seems like the right fit for you or someone you know, SpringBoard Recovery is a safe space to take those beginning steps towards a sober, healthier path and a meaningful life.


  1. Starbucks:
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
  3. Today:
  4. Forbes:
  5. Starbucks:
  6. The New York Times:
  7. Medical Design & Outsourcing:
  8. WebMD:
  9. NBC News:
  10. FDA:

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MARCH 30, 2019

Robert Castan is a member of the Executive Leadership Team at SpringBoard Recovery. Robert started his professional career as a house manager and has become an industry leader and trusted voice in the treatment world. He brings extensive knowledge of organizational growth, industry-leading outcomes, and comprehensive marketing to SpringBoard Recovery. Robert has been walking his own path of recovery for over 10 years. This path has truly driven his ambition to help make treatment available to others who are struggling with addiction. Robert finds great joy in traveling and keeping physically active, with an emphasis on biking. Robert resides in Arizona with his husband and two four-legged children.   The U.S. Alcohol Crisis, Still Deadlier Than the Opioid Epidemic   Zombies and Other Future Threats to the Health of American Youth Dire Mental Health: A Catalyst for Post-Pandemic Drug Addiction The Benefits of Rehab Center Staff Working Their Own Recovery Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Robert Castan on Successful Addiction Treatment and Entrepreneurship Castan: The road less traveled of addiction & recovery in Scottsdale Opioids & COVID Driving Phoenix’s Rising Fatal Drug Overdoses Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Successful Addiction Treatment Programs & Entrepreneurship

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