The growing PPE litter problem

·1 min read

Wearing gloves and masks in public has become commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic — but what do you do with your personal protective equipment when you're done using it?

Public health officials are finding that many people are either littering or recycling it, both wrong choices that can contribute to health hazards for humans and wildlife, CNN reports.

Littering PPE creates grounds for potential contamination for those who come in contact with it, and can also lead to an increase in microplastics in the environment. Mark Benfield, a Louisiana State University professor, is conducting research to learn about the scope of the issue. It's already common enough that public health departments around the country have issued advisories against littering masks and gloves, CNN reports.

"The PPE is intended to help us fight a public health challenge," Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment told CNN, “Not create a plastic pollution problem."

Most PPE is plastic or rubber, CNN reports, and cannot be recycled. When it is, waste management employees have to remove the PPE from the recycling pile, risking contamination.

PPE should be placed in a tight garbage bag and included in regular trash collection. Read more at CNN.

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