(CBS News) – Cities around the country are facing an unprecedented problem when it comes to discarded PPE supplies. Masks, gloves, and wipes are ending up in streets, in rivers, and oceans and experts say it’s creating an environmental hazard.
Mark Benfield is a professor in the Department of Oceanography at Louisiana State University. He’s been tracking PPE litter around the country since the pandemic began. Benfield says masks or gloves washing into sewers is a major concern. They’ll end up in our waterways where the plastic can break down and eventually be ingested by small aquatic animals. “If a human being eats a fish that’s consumed lots of smaller animals, then those pollutants can get into our bodies,” Benfield says.
To combat the problem, the mayor of Houston recently launched an anti-litter campaign called “Don’t Let Houston Go To Waste.” The city will hold cleanup events that will target illegal dumping.
In Los Angeles, anyone caught dropping a mask or glove could be fined $250.
But many are finding the solution lies with our choices, like wearing a reusable mask. Others are speaking out and reminding neighbors to pick up litter and throw it out.
The New York City Department of Transportation says the agency is currently engaged in a major public education campaign about PPE waste. They’re posting reminders about proper disposal of PPE near hospitals, bus stations, and grocery stores around the city.