The new face of COVID-19 litter. What do we do about it?

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By Nanci Dixon
The new face of litter is hitting the trails, parking lots and even the prismatic springs at Yellowstone National Park. Face masks, gloves, sanitizer bottles and disinfecting wipes are everywhere.

My husband and I were park hosts in Arizona at a major hiking area and found a lot of masks and wipes littering the ground even before the state mandated them. As we have moved further north we are finding even more litter in parking lots and on sidewalks. More people are wearing face masks now, and more states have mandated them. While sometimes I feel obligated to pick up trash, I draw the line at picking up potentially COVID-19 infested face masks or gloves without my own set of gloves. 

Seth, a Facebook user and member of the group RVing During the Pandemic, wrote: “We just got back from an 8,000-mile trip. Most places had around 50% using masks. Some higher, some lower. Of course, most of the masks we saw were left as litter. Such a shame … we counted 4 masks floating in the prismatic springs in Yellowstone. THEY WERE EVERYWHERE”

Lowe’s Home Improvement store parking lots must have been facing the same problem. They have tied disposal buckets to posts in hopes that people will dispose of masks and gloves to keep the area clean and prevent others from getting sick.


Reduce waste and reuse! Buy a reusable face mask here.


With no disposal bucket in sight, I have resorted to picking up litter and placing it on the floor of the back seat. I let gloves, disinfecting wipes and masks incubate for 24 hours and then toss in a garbage can. Soon, we will be returning to Arizona and we will be the ones picking up trash, including discarded face masks, wipes, gloves on the trails, sidewalks and parking lots as part of our volunteer job.

Please look for disposal buckets and trash cans and remember to discard those items properly, and recycle the sanitizer bottles when you can. Thank you for doing your part!

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Patrick C.
1 month ago

Littering is more annoying when it’s part of your job to pick it up(pre-covid) … Not complaining just saying(I guess I could call it job security) . Joking aside I agree it is 100x worse when it is items that could be contaminated. I can praise people that have enough respect for others to put trash where they should…. And wont type what I think of litter bugs.

Doug
2 months ago

Isn’t it a crime to improperly dispose of medical waste? Every big store has security cameras (and DNA testing is pretty good these days) – so even if you don’t prosecute and incarcerate these pigs, why not shame them by replaying their exploits in store on all the TVs in the electronics section. “Hey do you know this pig?”

Sink Jaxon
2 months ago

This to me is sinful, shameful and inconsiderate. Before the pandemic, along any highway/interstate (more so out in the country) you could find everything from fast food wrappers to broken glass to “loaded” disposable baby diapers. Bottles of urine and even full bags of garbage. Who are the people who do this? Now its PPE? What is happening to this great country and why is it being destroyed in this manner? People no longer care. It’s heartbreaking.

Debbie PJ
2 months ago

I too am sad at all the litter~ on our big trip this year I used my dogs poopy bag to pickup mask & gloves…worked pretty good.

Drew
2 months ago

Unless you can wash up right away I wouldn’t be picking up any “body” trash.

Glenn
2 months ago

It’s absolutely disgusting. Just going to a Sam’s Club or BJS and they are all over the parking lot! I can’t fathom the animals that think nothing of just tossing them anywhere. Sadly, it reflects the times in which we live.

Ed K
2 months ago

Pigs are every where, this is just another source of litter that the lazy and inconsiderate leave for their MOTHERS to pick up for them.

Linda
2 months ago
Reply to  Ed K

??? Leave for their mothers?

Larry
2 months ago
Reply to  Linda

As in signs saying “please pick up your trash, your mother doesn’t work here.” I even saw those in the faculty lounge of a school in Reykjavik Iceland (in the local language).