The rise of “disposable” gloves and other PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) being discarded as litter since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is deeply concerning. The images above were taken along a 200m edge of a Rochester greenspace early on Tuesday morning this week.
It’s not clear whether people are resorting to using these gloves, along with masks and sanitising wipes, in the belief that they will protect themselves from infection or to protect others, but there are several risks associated with this practice. Not only does the wearing and subsequent casual discarding of such PPE before reaching home completely defy the whole concept of cross-contamination, but this waste risks exposing other people to the virus and harming wildlife.
Single-use nitrile or latex gloves are incredibly strong, however they are also very lightweight so are easily picked up by the wind and blown around ending up in greenspaces or waterways, and can be fatal to wildlife, birds and fish who may ingest them.
Anyone who feels the need to wear gloves or masks should be careful to remove them safely and dispose of them properly when they get home, then washing their hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a 70% alcohol hand sanitiser.
There is a horrible irony in the fact that litter overall has decreased recently, but the level of fear we are currently living with has generated a whole new threat to our greenspaces.
Natalie – Friends of Rochester Churchfields & Esplanade (FoRCE)