Masks and Gloves Adding to Litter Problem

Learn how to correctly dispose of PPE

May 14, 2020

As more people protect themselves from the coronavirus with personal protective equipment (PPE), discarded disposable gloves and masks have become a frequent sight in store parking lots, along the sides of roads, even in forest preserves and other natural areas. Environmental experts and local authorities are urging the public to carefully dispose of their PPE, so it doesn’t spread germs and add to the earth’s litter problem.

Traditionally, paper masks are designed to be discarded frequently. But due to shortages, many people are wearing the same mask several times. Once you have finished with a paper mask, be sure to dispose of it directly in the trash as it cannot be recycled, advises In Habitat.

According to officials at the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA) in Central New York, workers at waste transfer stations are frustrated with the amount of masks and surgical gloves finding their way into the recycling, CNY Central reports. When this PPE is mixed in with paper and other recyclable items, they end of contaminating everything, so the entire bail must be treated as trash. Recycling center workers in Morris County, New Jersey, are finding that not only do masks and gloves contaminate the rest of the recycling stream, they jam equipment causing breakdowns.

Recycling center officials are asking people to stop placing these items in recycling bins and instead place them in the trash. If people are wearing these items to stores or work, they should put them in a disposable bag them place them in the trash outside the facility, before even entering the parking lot.

As for cloth masks, wash them in hot water with regular laundry detergent in the washing machine. You can add color-safe bleach as an extra precaution.

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