It is a common sight these days to see masks and gloves littered in the parking lots, on the roads, grounds, sidewalks, beaches, and parks.
Masks are the first line of defence against ongoing pandemic but when it comes to its safe disposal, we are least bothered.
Our planet is already overwhelmed with litter and now we have this additional pandemic litter that is further fanning the flames. We all are well aware that it is not a healthy practice to litter but despite our sagacity, we all do it sometimes or the other subconsciously.
What drives us to throw waste in the open is laziness or carelessness to hunt for a trash bin. We think what difference it makes. It’s the job of litter pickers why do we bother.
So goes our thinking.
Contaminated masks improperly disposed of are a potential health hazard to public health. Moreover, they are new plunderers of our environment along with cigarette butts and food wrappers.
As per UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), owing to historical data; it is expected that 75 per cent of used masks and other pandemic-related waste will end up in landfills or floating in seas.
We witness birds and animals throttled to death after being entrapped and entangled in mask loops. Larger animals can even mistake them for food and can ingest masks, gloves, and PPEs.
The very thought of entry of pandemic litter into our food chains through the land, water bodies, or animals is stupefying and horrifying. These are the immediate consequences of pandemic litter which are no more pernicious than its delayed consequences hundreds of years later as medical waste is composed of single-use toxic plastics.
Apart from causing environmental and health havoc, the estimated financial cost by UNEP in areas of tourism and fisheries is around $40 billion.
It's simple. Just dispose of it properly in a trash can. If you are unable to find one, keep it with you in a paper bag and then dispose of it in the garbage later.
We are responsible inhabitants of this planet and surely, we don’t want to be disease spreaders or environmental damage inducers.
One little initiative can save the other person and we need to keep the chain intact so that if everyone plays their part well, together we can hand over our forthcoming generations a litter-free healthy planet.
As I mentioned, plastic pollution has already been a ticking bomb with pandemic litter adding on to it as stray bullets. The absolute need of the moment is to implement stringent measures to curb public pandemic littering by the concerned authorities locally, nationally as well as globally.
Using fabric masks is an eco-friendly resource for non-healthcare workers.
Planet-friendly alternatives which are recyclable, biodegradable, and non-toxic should be encouraged and promoted both at small scale and large-scale levels. Lest we become vigilant and start acting or be ready for litter epidemics everywhere gyrating to illnesses and ailments procreators.
The author is is a physician, content Creator, wellness advisor.