A new campaign in Brussels seeks to encourage local residents to avoid disposing of gloves or face masks in public trash bins and to throw them away at home instead.
The campaign aims to raise awareness about the risks of infection that single-use face masks and gloves can carry, after it reported surges of such waste amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The World Health Organisation recommends that masks, tissues and gloves are thrown away in a closed bin,” agency spokesperson Étienne Cornesse told The Brussels Times.
“After consulting Walloon and Flemish authorities, as well as certain cities in France, the consensus was that the best course of action was to encourage people to avoid throwing these items in public bins, and particularly to avoid littering the streets with them.”
Cornesse said that as citizens equipped themselves with masks and other protective gear throughout the pandemic, public cleaning teams reported that a number of neighbourhoods in Brussels were littered with the disposables.
“The problem is mostly —and naturally— present in the most densely-populated areas of Brussels, such as the areas inside the inner-city ring,” Cornesse said.
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He also added that illegal dumping throughout the pandemic, which the agency had already been attempting to clamp down on, had spiked by around 20%.
“We were fairly surprised by the behaviour of some residents that, in the midst of this crisis, littered and created these illegal depots,” Cornesse said.
“This campaign seeks to raise awareness among the population that used masks, gloves and tissues can pose a health risk, especially to public cleaning workers,” he said. “This waste, like any other waste, cannot be simply discarded on the ground.”
In May, the agency had already issued a statement urging residents to throw away their used face masks and gloves in the non-recyclable bins, after staff reported finding them among cartons, plastic or aluminium in recyclable bags.
“Non-recyclable waste is incinerated, like that, the masks and gloves no longer risk infecting anybody,” Cornesse said.
The Brussels Times