PPE LITTER BECOMING A GROWING PROBLEM – NEW SURVEY REVEALS

Littering of face masks and plastic gloves is becoming an issue for councils who are seeing more Personal Protective Equipment discarded incorrectly, a new survey by the District Councils’ Network reveals today.

Almost half of councils (40 per cent) responding to the survey say that littering of PPE is a problem in their area.

The DCN, which represents 187 district councils collecting the waste from over 20 million people in England, is calling on residents to do their bit and dispose of masks, gloves and other PPE responsibly and properly by using a bin – ideally at home.

As well as being unsightly and potentially dangerous for pets and wildlife, there is a risk that they could spread infection.

The World Health Organisation has warned that appropriate disposal is essential to avoid any increase in transmission.

It comes as nearly nine in 10 councils have seen an increase in recyclable waste since lockdown measures were imposed in March, with some weeks being like Christmas collections.

Mass home working and a rise in online shopping are believed to be the key factors behind the increase.

To coincide with Recycle Week 2020, the survey has found that for some councils:-

• Greater volumes of glass were collected while the pubs were shut
• Tourist areas needed to deploy extra resource to manage litter bins and recycling banks
• Refuse in parks and open spaces increased dramatically, as well as dog bin waste
• Rise in garden waste – even though this is usually a service that residents have to pay for – has put a further strain on councils
• Fly-tipping has increased
• Staff absence has presented a further challenge in managing services

The DCN is thanking residents for their commitment to recycling and urging them to continue efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle waste.

But it is also asking residents to be responsible and mindful in how they dispose of used face masks and gloves.

Cllr Dan Humphreys, District Councils’ Network Lead Member for Enhancing Quality of Life, said:

“PPE waste is becoming a problem for many councils with more communities sadly seeing it become a normal part of litter left on the streets and in other public spaces.

“Not only does this blight local areas, but it also risks spreading infection. Face masks, gloves and other forms of PPE are designed to protect people from infection, but poor disposal risks doing the opposite.

“We need to express our gratitude for the magnificent effort of council waste collection teams during the hugely challenging times of the past few months, and for the vast majority of residents working hard to recycle waste and discard PPE responsibly.

“Keeping waste collections going has been a powerful symbol of life continuing as normal and has reassured residents that their council has continued to carry out the day-to-day services for every household across every street in the country.

“We would remind residents to be responsible and think carefully about how they manage and dispose of their waste, to help our waste collection crews.”