COVID-19 Disposable Gear Goes In the Trash, Not on the Ground

By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Kenzie Morgenlaender

TUSCALOOSA, Ala–The influx of COVID-19 across the world gave rise to a sudden, rapid increase in the need for disposable items like masks, gloves and disinfectant wipes. It’s also caused a sudden, rapid increase in people forgetting to throw their trash in the garbage.

Although these products are crucial for protecting humans from the virus, they are harmful to animals and the environment when not disposed of in a proper manner.  

An estimated 14 billion pounds of trash is dumped in the world’s oceans every year, according to Seastewards. This is only getting worse with the global pandemic.

Plastic Oceans International says that while PPE has “proven effective in the fight against the virus, they also run the risk of being disposed of incorrectly, entering our waters and adding to the already immense and still ever-growing problem of ocean pollution.”

You may have seen the viral photograph of a seagull that was rescued after its legs became trapped in the elastic part of a disposable mask.

Or thephotographof a fisherman on the Soko Islands in Hong Kong holding a collection of disposable masks he found washed up ashore. 

This problem is affecting nearly every country in the world. 

What about in Tuscaloosa?

Closer to home, grocery stores have returned to single-use plastic or paper bags as opposed to allowing customers to bring reusable bags from home.

Many restaurants are using single-use menus and Styrofoam boxes for take out, and dining halls on the University of Alabama campus are preparing food to-go only in single-use containers along with plastic utensils. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is “there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.”

When walking down the street or in a parking lot, take a look around and notice how many gloves and single-use masks are hanging out on the pavement.

“I’ve noticed a lot of trash on the ground when I walk down the strip,” said UA student Gabriella Papa. “Mostly there are a lot of masks in the storm drains and on the sidewalk.”

What can you do to help?

Purchasing a reusable, washable mask is a great substitute for disposables. Hand sanitizer or soap and water is a great way to reduce the number of plastic gloves we use. 

Being considerate and mindful of the waste we produce and taking small steps to reduce your carbon footprint can make a large impact on the health of our earth.

Categories: COVID-19