You have to throw out (and not recycle) gloves, masks properly, too, for everyone's health
Discarded masks and gloves littering parking lots and streets are becoming an unsightly, and potentially harmful, consequence of people trying to be safe during the pandemic.
"It's hazardous material, the way I look at it," said Roselle resident Tom Fox, who has seen the debris in front of his house on Irving Park Road.
Fox said people chucking gloves, masks or wipes after leaving a store but before getting into their cars are exacerbating the problem.
"They throw these out the window and expect a homeowner or business owner to pick them up. What are they thinking?" he asked.
The experts agree. Masks and gloves are a health concern if improperly discarded, according to Christopher Covelli, a spokesman for Lake County's crisis team. Personal protective equipment worn by someone who has COVID-19 symptoms, is pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, is "very likely" to be contaminated, he said.
"We ask the community to be very cognizant about not properly disposing of latex-type gloves, Covelli said. "Simply leaving them in a shopping cart for someone else to dispose of puts others at risk."
Tossing them on the ground creates the same risk and is not environmentally friendly. Generally, latex and nitrile-style gloves are intended for single-use only, he said.
"It's been noticeable," said Pete Adrian, recycling coordinator for the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County. "People need to take responsibility for the materials they're bringing into the stores."
Adrian said used gloves and other materials should not be put in recycling or left in shopping carts. They should be thrown in the trash, preferably at the site, or kept in a bag in the car to be tossed at home.
"We should be conscious of leaving it for somebody else. These (store) employees are really under a lot of stress," he said. They're causing stress at the recycling sorting facilities, too, he said.
Waste haulers ask that recycling be suspended at residences where someone is infected or shows virus symptoms.
In that instance, "put all your recyclables in a trash bag and throw them away," Adrian said. "There is some concern the virus can transfer onto these materials."
But if you don't have the virus, recycling remains a good idea. Because supply chains are getting strained, there is a demand for paper, cardboard and other recyclables, Adrian said.
Covelli said that even for someone using latex-style gloves, hand washing remains paramount to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Visit www.cdc.gov for instructions on how to properly remove gloves.
And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends face coverings be routinely laundered in the washing machine.
Plus, anyone who has tested positive or has symptoms should be self-isolating and not in a community setting or grocery store, Covelli said.
As for the litter in parking lots and elsewhere, Fox feared a child could pick up a discarded glove and put it in his or her mouth.
He wants everyone to get the message.
"Maybe by reading about it, they'll think twice," Fox said.