COVID-19: Residents urged not to litter used gloves, masks on street
By ERIN ROLL
With people donning gloves and masks to avoid the spread of COVID-19 while visiting grocery stores or pharmacies, many environmentalists are now concerned with proper disposal of the latex products. In recent weeks, too many gloves, surgical masks and disinfectant wipes ended up on the streets as litter. Many of them were discarded on the pavement near trash bins.
On Wednesday, the township sent out a notice warning that latex gloves are not recyclable.
"The recycling facility that receives and processes Montclair’s recycling has reported receiving a large amount of latex gloves and masks in the recycling loads. Masks and latex gloves are not considered household recycling. They must be disposed of as trash. For the sake of the health of recycling facility crews who must remain healthy to continue this essential service, please dispose of these items properly – in the trash," the notice said.
Some residents think it’s gotten so bad, they have posted videos on Facebook, such as the one posted by Verona resident Nancy Wands called “Glove Removal 101.” The woman goes through a parking lot picking up tossed gloves, disposes of them in a nearby trash bin, then takes off her own and demonstrates how to throw them in the bin.
On social media, one resident reported seeing at least 10 gloves in the parking lot at the Acme on Valley Road, while another reported seeing gloves and masks discarded in the parking lot at the Brookdale ShopRite in Bloomfield.
“We definitely have seen many discarded gloves on the street, sidewalks, and parking lots in the district,” Montclair Center BID Director Jason Gleason said. “Our ambassador crew has been focusing on keeping an eye out for them specifically and are getting them thrown away properly.”
Despite Montclair Local staff finding them in four different parking lots throughout town, Gray Russell, the township’s sustainability officer, said he has not heard any concerns about nor noticed discarded gloves on the streets.
He did concede that littering, especially plastics, is bad for the environment.
“Whenever anybody throws any litter away … there’s no team or crew that goes around and picks up garbage,” Russell said. If a rainstorm hits before the sweepers go out, any litter on the street will be washed into the gutters, and eventually into Toney’s Brook and then the Passaic River.
Plastic gloves are not biodegradable, and in waterways, they can be eaten by turtles and marine mammals.
In New York, Boston and Miami, city officials have advised residents not to throw away used masks or gloves on the street, but instead dispose of them in a trash can or other designated receptacle.
Some New Jersey municipalities, such as East Brunswick, have begun levying fines against people who are seen throwing gloves and masks away. Parsippany has begun charging $500 in fines for anyone who is caught littering.
Montclair’s Department of Community Services, which includes public works and sanitation pickup, has not received any concerns or complaints about discarded gloves, township communications director Katya Wowk said.
A call to CVS about its littered parking lots in Montclair was not returned.
Kings posted a notice on its website informing customers of where gloves can be disposed of: “To make it easier for you to dispose of your rubber gloves, we’ve placed red bins either in the center of the parking lot or near the cart corrals. Please keep an eye out for them. Our associates will really appreciate the effort.”