Officials direct people to throw used masks in the trash, they can not be recycled

By Benjamin VanHoose
Updated April 22, 2020
coronavirus litter
Credit: Vincenzo Lombardo/Getty

Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have formally recommended that everyone wear face coverings when in public, many people are using disposable or single-use masks and gloves. But if not correctly discarded, they could be harmful to other people.

Earlier this month during a press briefing, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned of the dangers of inappropriately discarding the items.

“Don’t throw these things on the ground. It’s actually dangerous. It actually could put other people in harm’s way,” he said, New York Daily News reported. “Look, we don’t like littering to begin with, but we especially don’t like littering when there might be a deadly virus on these gloves or masks.”

He added: “I’m not trying to be alarmist — it’s just common sense.”

coronavirus litter
Credit: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty

De Blasio added that people should dispose of them in order to not “endanger anyone else.”

“You don’t know if, God forbid, you happen to contract this disease, but if you’re on that mask, getting your breath on it, or those gloves, you’ve sneezed on them, anything like that, you don’t know,” he said. “Get rid of them. Get them out of the way so they won’t, in away way, endanger anyone else.”

A police captain in Londonderry, New Hampshire, told the Union Leader newspaper that citizens had reported on social media about a high number of littered masks and gloves in their community, in places like grocery store parking lots.

“These stores are already taxed with being busy, and now they have to have staff diverted to cleaning the parking lots to make sure they’re clean and sanitary,” said the officer. “It’s creating more work and potentially putting them at risk.”

Waste experts noted to CNN that the masks and gloves should not be recycled either, even if they are made of plastic.

“We recommend people throw their PPE in the trash,” a spokesperson for Orange County, Calif., waste and recycling told the outlet. “We don’t want to have children or unsuspecting healthy adults to come in contact and become carriers of the infection.”

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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This Story Originally Appeared On people