Humans are littering their plastic gloves and masks. It is harming marine life and posing greater risk for society.

Disgusting and dangerous: littering your plastic gloves, masks is just trashy 1

(L) Marco Verch Professional Photography / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 (C) Paul Heroux / Facebook / Screenshot (R) Jernej Furman / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Editors note: This article was produced in partnership with Earth Day Network. In a democracy, every voice matters. Click here to pledge to vote on environmental progress in 2020.

This story was updated on April 18th at 4:30 PM on April 18, 2020 to provide additional information.

PSA: please stop littering your personal protective equipment!

It’s great that people are using masks and gloves to help stop the spread of coronavirus. But when you’re done with them, you’re supposed to throw them out in a dumpster or trash can. Not, you know, drop them on the ground to end up in storm drains or get eaten by wild animals.

Or, worse, the gloves could end up spreading coronavirus to the poor workers who have to pick them up.

You can be fined

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Unsplash/Michael Longmire

It’s so bad that some towns are imposing fines on people who fail to properly dispose of the equipment. Public officials, like the mayor of Attleboro, MA, Paul Heroux, are publicizing the problem:

This is not ok. People who do this show that they care more about themselves than other people. We are all in this…

Posted by Paul Heroux on Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Not being alarmist…

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And even NYC mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in:

Don’t throw these things on the ground. It’s actually dangerous. It actually could put other people in harm’s way. 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. I’m not trying to be alarmist, it’s just common sense.


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It’s gotten so bad that one organization that fights plastic pollution, Clean This Beach Up, started the hashtag #TheGloveChallenge to encourage people to document the problem:

Trash cans, people!

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The responses they’ve gotten so far? Absolutely nasty.

Not art.

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Instagram users have found so many gloves lying around that they have been able to make collages.

Don’t be gross

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Source: Pixabay

Using personal protective equipment (PPE) is a great idea, but when you’re done, you need to dispose of them like the medical waste that they are. Just leaving them on the ground is bad for the environment, and bad for public health.

Plus, let’s be real—it’s also just plain gross.

Do it for the oceans

Disgusting and dangerous: littering your plastic gloves, masks is just trashy


If being absolutely disgusting isn’t enough of a deterrent for you, maybe think about the environment.

Most masks and gloves are made of materials that are neither recyclable nor biodegradable. That means that when you leave them lying around, they’re just going to stay there, contaminating soil and waterways.

Additionally, a lot of PPE contains plastic, which is absolutely devastating to ecosystems. Fish, birds, and marine mammals often die from consuming plastic materials. And if the animals we eat consume microplastics, the tiny pieces that result from larger plastic pollution breaking down, then we humans end up ingesting them too.

So, for everyone’s sake—dispose of your masks and gloves responsibly!

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