Discarded Masks Becoming a Health and Environmental Hazard

When the coronavirus pandemic made its first wave around the planet in March, health experts didn’t want people to wear masks because of the emergency need for them at hospitals and care facilities.


As we have learned more about how COVID transmits between people, most governments have mandated mask-wearing to prevent its spread.

These rules may be limiting the number of infections, but it also comes with a detrimental side effect. People are littering by discarding their used masks improperly. This problem has become so widespread that it is becoming a health and environmental hazard.

Why Is PPE Problematic for the Environment?

If you take a walk around the average city, you’ll find discarded masks and gloves everywhere. Whether in the street, a parking lot, or your front yard, these plastics can adversely impact the environment.

These products break down into microplastics that attract harmful chemicals and pesticides. They enter sewer systems and bodies of water. When animals eat these products, the contaminants enter their tissues.

If we eat those animals, the litter we created with our PPE enters our bodies.

What makes the problem even worse is that some people think that these items can be recycled, creating breakdowns in the recovery chain. 

The problem has become so great that some communities, such as Swampscott, Mass., are instituting fines of $5,500 or more to stop the littering.

How to Manage the COVID PPE Problem

It only takes having all of us to follow a few simple steps to stop PPE littering in our communities.

1. Don’t Litter

If you have masks or gloves that must get discarded, throw the PPE in the nearest trash. Although the risk of catching the coronavirus is remote, having healthy children or adults coming into contact with a contaminated item is not something we’d wish on anyone.

2. Put Clean Materials in Recycling

You cannot leave food or organic materials in recycling products. Try to clean each item before placing it in the correct receptacle.

3. Put PPE in the Trash

Used masks and gloves should get put out with the weekly trash. It helps to put the PPE in a tight, secure bag to prevent any contamination from reaching the regular waste stream. If you travel and need to discard items, carry a container that lets you properly store the items until they can be disposed of correctly.
When we all do our part, we can stop the litter and the COVID pandemic. Take care of yourself with products from Argentyn23, LivOn Labs, and Quicksilver Scientific while protecting you and your loved ones from infection.