Last week, Mayor London Breed put an order for workers and residents – in fact, for everyone – in San Francisco to wear face coverings when they are outside of their homes for essential needs, including waiting in line for or inside of a grocery store or on public transportation. Most people are already wearing masks, and evidence is on the streets. You can’t take a walk without seeing a mask or a pair of gloves lying around.
While Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is helping keep humans safe, Autumn Cleave, SFPUC Pollution Prevention Specialist says littering is not an option.
“PPE is supposed to help us stop the spread of the virus, not create a plastic pollution problem. Let’s not make the situation worse by littering and polluting our own streets where we work, play and live. Put used gloves and masks in the trash,” explained Cleave.
The SFPUC hopes everyone continues to do their part by managing their garbage and recycling. Here are a few tips to avoid hurting the environment:
- Do not litter in public areas or streets.
- Only put cleaned recyclable items in recycling bins.
- Put PPE in a secure and tight garbage bag and dispose of it in the regular black trash bins for collection.
- Take a small plastic bag, paper bag or some sort of container with you where you can put used PPE if you don’t find a trash bin nearby. Then put in your garbage once at home.
Cleave explains that gloves and masks are a ‘new form’ of litter that she hopes people will be more mindful of as they can be harmful to the environment, clog San Francisco’s storm drains and litter our neighborhoods if not properly disposed of. After all, only rain belongs down the drain.
“Gloves, masks and wipes, they are all plastic. When they go into the environment, the sewer system, the bay and ocean, they break down into micro-plastics, which in turn attract pesticides and other harmful chemicals. When marine life eats those, they don’t just eat the plastic, but all the chemicals that go with it,” exclaimed Cleave. “Next time you need to get rid of your mask or disposable gloves, think of your neighbors, your neighborhood, your City, marine life – your environment – and throw them in the black trash bins.”