Pandemic trash is another danger

While waterways and skies are cleaner during the COVID-19 pandemic, people are littering their used masks and gloves.

It is our responsibility to protect ourselves from COVID-19 with masks and gloves, but the responsibility shouldn’t stop there.

With almost everyone in quarantine and in their homes, people aren’t driving as much and as a result, we are seeing improvements in the environment. People in Long Beach could see the Hollywood sign, people living in London have reported seeing the Eiffel tower and the murky water canals in Venice are running much clearer than usual.

For once it seems like the environment is prospering with clear water and fresh air, but now we are replacing that with trash.

Masks and gloves have become a necessity to go outside, but instead of discarding them properly in the trash, Americans are throwing them by the curb. By not disposing the masks and gloves correctly, we could be putting people in harm's way.

For example, let's say a person who does have COVID-19 uses a mask and gloves to protect themselves and others. Their breath and germs from their mouth get onto the mask and the germs from their hands get onto the gloves. Not disposing of them correctly can hurt a lot of people if someone chooses to do the right thing and pick it up to throw it away.

When people carelessly throw their masks and latex gloves in places like parking lots or shopping carts, sanitation workers and grocery store staff have to pick up what they left behind. They have to work extra hard to keep streets clean when users can simply help them by throwing away their own trash.

Sanitation workers aren’t responsible for all the trash in America. It is our job to throw it away. Any trash that doesn't end up in the garbage gets picked up by a gust of wind or washed away by the rain and it all ends up in one place — the ocean.

When we contaminate the ocean, we are not only poisoning the ocean life, but ourselves as well. Most of the masks and gloves that we use aren’t recyclable or biodegradable, so when they break down into tiny plastic pieces the fish eat it thinking it’s food. This creates a health hazard for the millions of people who enjoy fish.

As a person who grew up eating seafood, I have to limit myself when eating raw fish due to the risk of mercury poisoning. Who's to say what the coronavirus will do to our ocean life if we keep littering the germ infested masks and gloves.

In fact, littering is illegal in many states including California. If caught littering, on the first offense residents could face a fine of $250 to $1,000 and possibly up to $3,000 if repeated.

It is very simple. When you are done using your gloves, take them off by turning them inside out and dispose of both gloves and masks properly. Protect the environment like you’re protecting yourself.

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