(WKBN) – The COVID-19 pandemic has made Personal Protective Equipment a part of
our everyday lives. Many of those products are made of plastic, which is causing problems we’ve never seen before.

“The littering itself hasn’t changed. It seems to be the items that are being littered that have changed,” said Ashley Haynes.

As more people continue to use PPE to stay safe from the coronavirus, many are also not disposing of those items in a responsible way.

“If you’re gonna use disposable gloves or masks, throwing them in the parking lot of the supermarket isn’t helping anyone,” said Environmental Studies Assistant Professor Anne-Marie Hanson.

That can pose an issue to the environment.

“This is really concerning for us. We don’t fully know the impacts of what this has on human health, but we do know that it can kill local wildlife,” said April O’Leary, chairman of the Keep Horry County Beautiful.

“Littering has always been an issue, but it’s increased with the masks. It’s harmful to the animals. It’s harmful to our environment… A stray animal can get caught in them, and it’s not just dogs and cats. It’s the whole wildlife population. It can get caught in their hooves. It can get caught up on them, a mask, rubber gloves, anything like that,” said Brandon Henry, director of the Marshall County Animal Shelter.

People have also noticed an increase of fast food and take-out boxes.

“That particular issue of not being able to sit down in a restaurant and eat and compromising for being hungry to grab something quick, there’s your bags. There’s your trash, and it puts a lot more paper out there, a lot more containers than has ever been out there before,” said Randy Elliott.

“The increase is really noticable… We see more and more of the gloves and the plastic utensils and the take-out containers,” said Environmentalist Sejal Choksi-Chugh.

But even as the vaccine makes its way across the world, it will still be a while until we will no longer need PPE, so experts remind everyone to try for resuable masks and always throw away your items properly.

“There’s trash cans everywhere. Pick your masks up, throw your rubber gloves away. If you’re going to wear it, throw it away,” Henry said. “Be respectful to your environment and your community around you.”