Proper mask disposal is becoming as big an issue as COVID-19

As if this pandemic hasn’t caused enough problems for us, add litter to the list.

Cleanup crews and public employees across the country are finding errant face masks blowing across medians and floating down storm drains.

With mask mandates blanketing most of the world, it’s expected that the sudden increase in disposable mask use will contribute significantly to the tons and tons of litter discarded each year.

Single-use masks and gloves can’t be recycled, but they’re relatively easy to find and are cheap.

Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola told Press Staff Writer Brandon Paykamian this week city workers haven’t had much of a problem from improperly disposed of masks in local parks and other public areas, but we’ve seen them lying in parking lots and on sidewalks.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation, Department of Environment and Conservation and litter prevention program Keep Tennessee Beautiful teamed up this week to get the word out about littered masks, gloves and wipes.

TDOT workers have been finding protective equipment strewn along the state’s highways and byways, and hope an awareness campaign will convince residents to clean up their acts.

As with all disposable products, it’s up to us to make sure our masks and gloves are properly thrown away in trash cans.

Better yet, reduce the amount of material sent to the landfill and buy or make cloth masks for yourself and others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vouches for their effectiveness when used and handled properly, and they can be washed and reused.

CDC patterns for sewn and non-sewn masks can be found at

Thankfully, most medical professionals believe there’s not much of a risk of disease transmission from used masks, because the novel coronavirus can’t survive long on porous surfaces.

It’s still bad manners to throw one on the ground, though, and those inconsiderate people who toss them down are making extra work for the people who do have to clean them up.

If you’re considerate enough to wear a mask to protect others, please go one step further and make sure it’s thrown away properly.

-The Johnson City Press