26 July 2015

The superheroes

Back in 2012, I had my first mobile injection room spotting. A cream colored ride, with a yellow cross and the word “Fixerum, førstehjælp” (injection room, first aid) on the sides. It launched in September 2011, and I meant to write about it then, but the subject is so hard and depressing that I kept putting it off. An approach I at the time shared with the city administration, turning a blind eye to the problem.

The injection room was a guerrilla initiative by a small, frustrated group of locals, led by social innovator Michael Lodberg, who could no longer stand by and watch the struggle of the drug addicts, criminalized and left to inject and often die from an overdose, in public. As the city refused to run or even allow an injection room, Michael Lodberg raised the money for an old ambulance, and staffed it with volunteer nurses and doctors.

Fixerum The Mobile Injection Room
The Fixelance on Vesterbro, March 2012.

As the ambulance set out, they didn’t know what to expect. Maybe they would get arrested? Maybe locals would chase them away? Instead, the initiative was widely embraced. It was obviously a better solution for everyone, to have drugs administered in a designated space, where used needles would be collected, and kept off the streets. It offered a measure of dignity for the users, clean needles and someone there to revive them, if they overdosed.


From the book Fixerummet der fik hjul (the injection room that got wheels). A hard but good read.

Another ambulance was later donated, lives were saved and one year in, the mobile injection room was such a resounding success that the city finally caved, and took over the project. This is now a part of Copenhagen history, and the first ambulance has even become a part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of Denmark.

Michael Lodberg's mission to restore dignity to society's most vulnerable, continues. We met at his office in the meat packing district, to discuss his latest project: Pantringen, the deposit ring. A garbage can accessory, shaped like a half-moon shelf, where you can leave the deposit bottles for collectors. Unlike the case of The Test Tubes (a cup-stacking device by yours truly), this idea was embraced by the cleaning department, who have entered a trial period with the deposit ring, in selected areas.

Pantring / Deposit ring

Giv din pant videre / Pass your deposit on. 


Pantring / Deposit ring

Pantring / Deposit ring

The purpose of the ring is double: it spares deposit collectors the humiliation of digging through garbage, and it helps save the environment. Last year alone deposit bottles worth 166 million DKR were never returned. An incredible waste of resources, and a strain on the environment. We agreed: people who collect deposit bottles are really environmental heroes. Instead of being treated like a pariah, they should be dressed in capes, and saluted for the work that so many can’t be bothered to do themselves.

Pantring / Deposit ring

I don't know about you, but I am tempted to throw in a super-cape for Lodberg too.

The mobile injection room Fixelancen
Pantringen, Kbhpant  (in Danish)
Fixerummet der fik hjul (about the book, in Danish) 


4 comments:

  1. Great post - I've seen the rings at Hovedbanegården and thought what a great idea it was. I didn't know about the mobile injection room, I only know the one on Istedgade, but it's really good to see that some people do care about others and go the extra mile for them.

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    1. Thank you Laura. Hopefully the rings prove a success, and spread to more areas. I only saw one bottle (and it was picked up immediately, glad I caught that on camera), but that could easily mean that they are recycled already.

      The mobile room is still around, but they also have permanent rooms now. After the first permanent injection room opened, they saved 100 lives the first year, and drastically minimized dirty needles left on the street.

      It does make you feel good inside, that there is such compassion and empathy out there.

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  2. both are brilliant ideas!

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    1. Agreed. And he is doing so much more, way more than fit into just one post. Will have to do at least one more.

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