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People Are Throwing Used Masks and Gloves on the Ground. It Needs to Stop.

The people left to pick up these biohazards are the ones keeping society going.


Littering is always bad — just ask this guy — but tossing potentially hazardous medical waste on the ground in the middle of a global pandemic is another level of awful.

Unfortunately, it’s a widespread problem in states across the country and countries across the world, where potentially dangerous discarded gloves and masks are a depressing side effect of the outbreak.

Even if you think it’s fine to toss a burger wrapper or soda can on the ground under normal circumstances, it’s hard to imagine how you could think of spreading a biohazard in the same way. After all, if they did their job before being discarded, used PPE is likely covered in the novel coronavirus that can live on surfaces for days.

“With such behaviors, where is our dignity? Where is our respect? Civic sense?” Ball State professor of health science Jagdish Khubchandani told HuffPost. “We tend to judge everyone and cry about human rights: Where are these rights when we throw masks and gloves that can infect others? We cannot be safe by putting others in danger.”


The people who are left to pick up this trash are grocery store employees, sanitation workers, and other essential workers currently putting their own health at risk to keep society functioning.

“If we keep doing this, we could end up infecting our frontline and essential workers and personnel,” Khubchandani said. “Not to mention overburdening waste management workers and city health departments who are already stretched for resources.”

In other words, this kind of littering could be a potentially disastrous problem. And that’s without considering what happens to the waste that doesn’t get picked up.

Used masks and gloves are neither recyclable nor biodegradable, which means that when littered they can end up in storm drains and bodies of water, where wildlife can mistake them for food.

Some municipalities are fighting pack with increased penalties for those caught littering. In Yorktown, NY, for instance, the fine was recently doubled to $1,000 for the first offense. Here’s hoping that measures like that and pure public shaming are enough to keep public spaces clean and essential workers safe.