NANAIMO — An innovative public health program has launched in Nanaimo, which will see school children earning $0.05 for every needle they find and turn into their school secretary.

SD68 spokesperson Julie MacTire says the new “SharpKids” program is in pilot only for now, but if its a success it will be expanded to include other hazards, such as feces, discarded condoms, and bags of white powder.

“This really works on so many levels,” said MacTire. “Of course, it helps get discarded and potentially dangerous needles out of Nanaimo’s parks. But more importantly, it fosters a spirit of entrepreneurship among the young people.”

Sign posted at Mcgirr Elementary School in Nanaimo encouraging children to find discarded needles, pick them up, and turn them into the school for a cash reward.

Actually, students have the potential to earn more than just 5 cents per needle, as there is a bonus step-up incentive program. If a student turns in ten needles in a single week, the amount paid jumps to $.07 each.

Keeping the students safe is a top priority, said a SD68 news release. “We realize that some parents may be concerned about the potential health impacts of their children handling used needles. Rest assured, we will be providing all children with an informative brochure prior to them going out.”

Nanaimo schools will also participate in a competition, with SD68 keeping track of which school is responsible for the most number of returned needles. So far, McGirr is in the lead.

Nanaimo’s public health department plans to pick the collected needles up from schools each month, sterilize them, then return them to the parks.