NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

PPE everywhere: The pandemic has led to increased littering 

At this point, people all over, young and old, are familiar with personal protective equipment, of PPE, like masks and gloves.

Mirrorajah Metcalfe, 19, of Haverhill wears PPE when she goes to work at Market Basket and disposes of it in a trash can when done.  
Jocelyn Avila, 20, of North Andover uses gloves and reusable masks as often as possible to do her part in keeping extra trash to a minimum. “I hate litter,” she says. 
Avila also cuts the loops on her disposable masks before throwing them away to avoid animals getting stuck in them
Andrew Venditti, 21, from Haverhill, is currently working from home but does use masks, both disposable and reusable, when out for walks with his dog Sherlock.  
Unfortunately, we do not only see PPE on each other while we are at work or at the supermarket, we also see it everywhere littering our streets, sidewalks, benches and various other surfaces and bodies of water.  
Venditti has noticed the increase of PPE litter over the last several months.
“My dog finds masks and sometimes sniffs and picks them up,” he says.  
He sees PPE litter all over main roads, on sidewalks and in gutters. 
“It seems irresponsible and ignorant.” he says. “It’s so easy to just throw it away. Don’t be that guy.” 
Venditti does give people some benefit of the doubt, saying, “Some trash gets blown around by the wind.” 
Avila says she’s “annoyed, disgusted” and feels “secondhand embarrassment” by all the PPE litter she sees.  

There are things that can be done to reduce and perhaps stop all the PPE litter.

Metcalfe suggests using reusable PPE that can be washed and used over and over. Avila says littering fines should be enforced to deter people from littering. 

Venditti thinks more signs in public on how to properly dispose of PPE could help. 

A photo collage of personal protective equipment litter.Isa Grullon

A collage of various examples of personal protective equipment litter.