AN Urban Councillor has called for a syringe exchange scheme, used with varying degrees of success overseas, to be considered for Hong Kong. In the wake of the discovery of syringes at beaches including Rocky Beach in Shek O, Southern Ward councillor Joseph Chan Suet-yut said information he had received indicated the dumped needles were discarded by drug users rather than being medical waste. ''If this is the case it is a very serious matter which requires government departments, especially the police and Health Department, to work together to ensure dirty needles are not left in public places,'' he said. Mr Chan said he was unsure of the extent of the problem and data needed to be collected to find out how many syringes were used and then discarded by the territory's intravenous drug users. His comments came as a methadone treatment card was found washed up on Shap Long Beach in Lantau during a beach clean-up by the Green Lantau Association. The Health Department said it was trying to trace the young addict to whom the card belonged. The department hoped the addict could help provide clues to the origin of the used and bloody equipment, and to the mystery of the increasing number of syringes that are washed up on beaches. If the man had disposed of the equipment somewhere other than Shap Long beach, then it would be useful to be able to surmise how the dangerous rubbish got there. ''We will try and find him and ask him, but we cannot disclose his personal particulars,'' the spokesman said. Mr Chan said: ''We need to examine whatever systems and methods are available to stop careless dumping of dirty needles. ''And if overseas needle exchange programmes have been successful at controlling and monitoring the use and disposal of needles by intravenous drug users, then schemes of this nature definitely warrant attention and examination in regards their potentialoperation in Hong Kong.'' The schemes involve the official supply of syringes to drug users who are given incentives to return the used needles in child-proof containers to designated collection points. Schemes of this type operate in parts of the United States, Europe and New Zealand. They were established to reduce the risk of HIV infection by ensuring needle sharing was not necessary. After several years of operation the schemes have also proved useful in monitoring the amount of needles used and controlling disposal. While the schemes differ from country to country they are usually administered by health departments who provide the needles in packs containing education material, sterilised cleaning swabs and condoms. Incentives for drug users to participate in the government schemes include the offering of cheaper syringes as well as making it much easier to obtain them. However, suggestions that such a scheme would be appropriate in Hong Kong did not receive universal approval. Public Health Select Committee chairman Leung Ping-chung said he found it hard to see the value of a government-administered needle exchange scheme. ''Drug users through the nature of their habits are very difficult to control and monitor effectively. And as I believe few drug users would co-operate, I do not support the introduction of a needle exchange scheme,'' Mr Leung said. ''However, the Government needs to look at the problem to see what measures could be used to prevent addicts leaving dirty needles in public places. But just because needle exchange schemes have been successful overseas doesn't mean similar programmes would work in Hong Kong. ''Despite being sceptical I do agree ongoing overseas needle exchange programmes could be examined to provide the Government with reference material on measures used to monitor intravenous drug use while controlling the disposal of syringes.''