Hey you! Yeah, you! Have you ever been told to clean up after yourself? If you have, if we have, it doesn’t show once we step outside, drive along the highway or walk along the beach.

The Covid-19 pandemic increased the amount of litter in our neighborhoods, on our highways, and even in our wastewater systems. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), face masks, plastic gloves, face shields, and sanitizing wipes have been showing up everywhere.

Litterbugs Everywhere

We can all appreciate nature, right? Wildlife, flowers, trees, and even bugs! Every bug has its place, right? Well….every bug except for a litterbug.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, President of the African American Mayors Association has found a way to get Houstonians to properly dispose of PPE waste through his anti-litter campaign.

“The use of proper personal protective equipment, like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, is critically important in the fight against the spread of COVID-19,” Mayor Turner said. “But we have a PPE litter problem. Houston is not alone. Cities across the nation are experiencing unbelievable amounts of PPE litter on streets and sidewalks.”

Birds Need Masks, Too?

The increased use of masks, gloves, and other equipment follows the same invisible stream our plastic use does, it flows right into our oceans and waterways. 

The Ocean Conservancy, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental nonprofit, released their 2021 survey findings, Participants reported PPE in oceans and other waterways. In addition to threatening wildlife, PPE can strain wastewater infrastructure. Cities across the United States and around the world have reported that blockages and sewer overflows caused by disposable wipes have increased.

“These things can clog the drains and clog inlets,” said Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock. “They can contribute to flooding when we have the next rainstorm.”

With the introduction of his anti-litter campaign, Mayor Turner aims to have Houstonians do their part in protecting the environment and keeping the city clean.

Houston we have PPE, now let’s dispose of it properly!

The National Wildlife Federation emphasizes that focus should be on people properly disposing of their garbage and recycling, this includes face masks and other personal protection equipment.