‘It’s causing real damage’: Manchester sees spike in abandoned PPE

Manchester has seen a sharp increase in the amount of personal protection equipment abandoned on the street. 

Last month, the government made it compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport although, at the weekend, Cabinet minister Michael Gove revealed that it is unlikely that face coverings will become compulsory in shops as well. 

Despite this, it has become more common to wear a mask in public, and with this there has been an increase in the amount of PPE discarded on the streets.

The medical impact of the abandoned PPE is not yet known, but these items are made from microplastics and other non-biodegradable materials.  

In Manchester alone, a one-mile walk around the suburbs of Withington and Fallowfield revealed over fifteen individual items, from masks to latex gloves, the discarded PPE is hard to ignore and is posing a threat to the environment. 

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE: Disgarded PPE has been popping up on streets across the city

Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, the Executive Member for Neighbourhoods, described the problem as “disappointing”.

He said: “This new form of litter is particularly hazardous, as it could be contaminated with coronavirus and also adds to the worldwide problem of plastic pollution, harming wildlife and causing real damage to the environment.” 

It is known that the virus can live on items for up to 72 hours, and by discarding these items, it is opening up the possibility of spreading the virus. 

This is not just an issue in Manchester, in Cambridgeshire, PPE has been spotted in the river and near cows grazing in the countryside.  

Meanwhile, The Pickup Artists, a community litter picking group based around Kidderminster, are committed to keeping their area clean and have been dealing with picking up PPE. 

Nicki, a volunteer, has been picking up the masks, gloves, wipes, and even plastic aprons that surround her area. 

DAMAGE: Used PPE could cause damage to the environment and help spread Covid-19

She said: “Mostly these are thrown from cars so wonder if paid carers are not being given suitable means of disposing of used PPE.

“I use my litter picker to collect it and bag it, don’t touch it or my face and wash my hands when I have finished. Like all litter, it damages the environment and spreads disease.” 

There are many alternatives to single use protective wear, with many shops selling reusable PPE, often with a charitable donation. Meanwhile, the government’s website shows how to make a mask yourself at home. 

If you find any PPE littered in your area, you need to contact your local authority to have it removed.

For Manchester, click here.

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