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Campaign urges proper protective gear disposal amid pandemic

LIHUE (AP) — Environmental groups in Hawaii have joined a campaign to bring attention to discarded personal protective equipment that is adding to plastic pollution on shorelines worldwide amid the coronavirus pandemic, advocates said.

Federal and state governments have advised people to wear masks in public to protect themselves and others against the coronavirus, but masks, gloves and other equipment are not always properly disposed of, The Garden Island reported.

“Millions of pounds of plastic pollution wash ashore Hawaii beaches each year. This campaign is aimed at reducing the environmental and public health impacts of improperly discarded PPE,” Surfrider Foundation Kauai chapter scientist Carl Berg said.

Personal protective equipment can be mistaken as food by birds, turtles and marine mammals and can put animals at risk, the foundation said in a statement, adding that these used items could also be carrying pathogens and contributing to the spread of COVID-19.

The campaign is intended to educate the public on proper disposal guidelines as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and encourage the use of reusable equipment, such as cloth masks.

“Proper disposal of single-use PPE and making the switch to reusable items can aid in solving the ever-rising plastic pollution issue. Littering PPE and any other items is illegal and considered a criminal offense,” the foundation said.