As a result of COVID-19, personal protective equipment (PPE) has become an important part of individual and community responses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone wear cloth face coverings when leaving their homes. Single-use PPE, like gloves, wipes, and disposable masks, has also been a vital part of daily life.
However, improperly disposing of trash, including PPE, can create marine debris and harm the environment. Improperly discarded PPE can enter the environment through ineffective or improper waste management, intentional or accidental dumping and littering, or through stormwater runoff. Even if you’re at home, hundreds of miles from the shore, our trash travels and can adversely affect the ocean and harm the wildlife that share our planet.
It is important to properly dispose of single-use items, including PPE. Keep track of and dispose of them in the proper receptacle or take them home to your own trash can. Avoid putting trash in a receptacle that is overflowing, since trash can end up on the ground where it can be blown into the water or carried away in stormwater runoff.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you put used disinfectant wipes, masks, gloves, or other PPE securely in a trash can and follow local trash and CDC guidelines.
There are also other ways you can help make a difference and reduce the impacts of all types of marine debris, including plastics:
Spread the word to others in your community! Marine debris is created by people, and no one person can solve this problem alone. Tell your family, friends, and community about this important issue and what they can do to help. Plastic has some important uses, but properly disposing of trash and PPE is also important. By encouraging others to properly dispose of their waste, we can prevent our trash from becoming marine debris.
Use the Marine Debris Tracker App to keep track of the debris you see, including PPE. The app records the debris location through GPS, and allows you to add descriptions of items, attach photos of debris items you find, and view the data on your phone. The Marine Debris Tracker App makes it possible for everyone to get involved in local and global data collection.
Remember! You can help protect our ocean, waterways, and Great Lakes by disposing of trash and PPE properly, no matter where you are.
You can find more information on plastic marine debris, how to handle hazardous marine debris, or marine debris in general by visiting the NOAA Marine Debris Program website.