On Litter and the Coronavirus

The other day, I was struggling to come up with an idea of what to write about for today’s post. It’s not that I lack blogging ideas…It’s just that most of my blogging ideas didn’t feel particularly relevant right now, given what’s going on in the world. And then, I saw this:

Litter in a business area near my home. The photo is from me.

Just as the situation was starting to go downhill in New York City (over a month ago), I said to my younger brother that the coronavirus would bring out both the best and the worst in humanity. And the fact is that images like this, images of massive litter around businesses that have been shuttered for weeks due to the coronavirus, truly bring out some of the worst in humanity. Instead of throwing garbage in a nearby garbage can, it appears that dozens of people have seemingly taken advantage of the closed businesses (and subsequent lack of monitoring of litter) by using the streets as their personal garbage cans for their food wraps, coffee cups, and worse…personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and face masks.

I share this, not because I’m accusing any of my readers of being litterers (my guess is that quite a few of my readers will be horrified with the photo above), but because people need to be aware of the accumulating litter near empty businesses (at least in New York City, because I can’t speak for anywhere else), as well as the subsequent environmental and public health issues that will exist here. There are the environmental issues caused by litter, such as animals mistaking the litter for food and potentially choking on it (and dying from it). But then there’s the public health issue—whoever ends up handling this garbage will have to deal with germs from the PPEs. And at that point, you’re hoping that the germs on the PPEs are not coronavirus germs.

As far as I can tell, this issue of accumulating litter (particularly by the areas near shuttered businesses) is not getting that much media coverage…at least not yet. Given that fact, I think that it’s important to at least raise awareness of this issue on here, so that it is shared with others. It is also important to, if any of us have the opportunity (and if we feel comfortable), say to someone who looks like they are about to litter something along the lines of, “Excuse me, but would you please wait to throw that away until you can put it into a trash can?”

I hope others are doing well, and I certainly hope that none of you are staring at images even half as disgusting as what I have in the image toward the beginning of this post.

17 Replies to “On Litter and the Coronavirus”

  1. Littering is a truly manky habit at any time, but knowng you could be spreading disease and still doing it? When normal rules no longer apply you really do see a separation between the selfish and the selfless. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re completely right Dee. Littering happens at all times, but it seems to be particularly bad now (and involves particularly disgusting littering of PPEs). I said at the beginning of this that the coronavirus would bring out both the best and the worst in humanity. And this is an example of the coronavirus bringing out the worst in us.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s the same here in Vancouver. The mayor of New Westminster (a Vancouver suburb) just passed a by-law authorizing fines up to $10,000 for anyone caught littering PPE. I see disposable gloves everywhere – ATMs, gas stations, grocery store parking lots and sidewalks. One of the most alarming shut-down realities is how the homeless population has taken over formerly vibrant downtown streets. With block after block of retail, restaurant and bar owners choosing to board up doors and windows to squelch commercial property break-ins, sheltered entrances/awnings have become idle spots for homeless people to live away from squalor of the downtown eastside. It’s equal parts alarming, tragic and inevitable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see disposable gloves and masks everywhere, as you can tell from my piece. I’ve heard mumurs at least of fines being levied against people who litter PPE equipment.

      Similar things have happened in New York City with the homeless. It’s a delicate situation though…many people don’t want the homeless out and about, yet in many of the shelters in NYC, it’s impossible to practice social distancing, and being out on the streets is for some the easiest way to practice social distancing.


  3. The inner city of Johannesburg is disgusting. There is litter everywhere and all the storm drains are blocked with rubbish so there is flooding when it rains heavily. A lot of the rubbish is food related with the consequence that there are rats and other vermin. I expected more from a first world country, but it seems that a lot of people have no moral compass.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I said at the beginning of this virus (and my brother agreed with me) that the pandemic would bring out both the best and the worst in many of us. The littering going on in many places is one case of the worst in some of us coming out.

      One of the eye-opening things about reading the comments I got on this post is that this is by no means “just” a New York City problem I’m describing here. NYC may be at the epicenter of this virus, but we are also far from the only place with the littering of PPEs going on.


  4. Disappointing isn’t it? Would be nice if people would show their ‘good side’ at a time like this, but sadly not necessarily so. Pity that we still so often need to be ‘policed’ on these very simple tasks!


  5. I get so frustrated when I see trash just recklessly thrown on the ground. What are they thinking or as my mom used to say”what is on their alleged minds?” Disposable gloves and masks are becoming more and more prevalent nowadays, companies like supermarkets have put out trash barrels with signs to throw out PPPs in them.


  6. I concur, there is a massive increase in littering here in Australia also … like people want to be lawless! Nobody cleaning up their dog poop, gloves and masks all over the car park …. appalling!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, one of the things I totally did not expect when writing this post was discovering how international this problem is. Another person who commented on the post comes from South Africa if I recall correctly, and it’s a problem there too. There are similar scenes in New York City (where I live), especially with the gloves and masks. It’s disgusting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, and in some ways, it does sound like the environment is getting better. But littered PPEs certainly doesn’t help, especially considering the materials they are made of.

        Liked by 1 person

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