Metro Vancouver officials say they’ve received a growing number of complaints from workers and residents who have found used medical masks and gloves littered on streets, creating a potential health hazard amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The district is now urging anyone who uses such personal protective equipment (PPE) to bag it separately prior to discarding it, in order to further limit the spread of COVID-19.
“We also recommend that if a person is looking after anyone who is sick, that those same materials be double-bagged,” Metro Vancouver’s solid waste services general manager Paul Henderson said.
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While it’s not certain that the medical litter could lead to a further spread of the virus, Henderson says the request is meant to make both residents and municipal workers feel safer, including garbage collectors.
“Across our workforces, there’s really a heightened concern with respect to these types of materials,” he said.
Workers are continuing to wear coveralls and gloves while on the job and practicing proper hygiene, measures Henderson says have been in place before the pandemic began.
But Henderson says residents should still treat used masks, gloves and sanitary wipes the same as dog waste: pick them up with a bag, then dispose of them.
“We’ve definitely heard from municipalities that their workers are seeing more of these materials than usual, and we really want residents to be disposing of them properly,” he said.
The district is also asking residents who have taken to deep cleaning their homes as they self-isolate to hold off on bringing their waste to transfer stations until after the pandemic is over.