There are a few items any Philadelphian likely notice once they leave their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially on the pavement or in the grass.
No one wants to walk past discarded gloves or masks that could be contaminated with the virus.
Sewers, grocery store parking lots, and residential blocks are experiencing a littering issue with gloves and masks. And in a neighborhood like Germantown, who suspended their Special Services last year, a program that collected neighborhood funds to clean public areas in return, littered gloves and masks may add to the already present trash issue.
Martin Pratt, Solutions Journalism Network Fellow, said he sees the gloves everywhere, especially in grocery store parking lots.
“At some point, Philadelphia is gonna have a mask and glove problem,” Pratt said. “I took a picture of a mask on the ground upside down, so it’s like the first thing you see is where the person’s face was.
The reporter said he is wondering how and when the city government will handle this issue. He said their response has been, “they didn’t know it was an issue.”
While the pandemic has exposed flaws in the health, prison, and school system, the street cleanliness adds to the list. But there is a small solution which may help with the littering.
Last year emerged a “Luv Thy Hood” trash can initiative by Michael A. George. George has also witnessed the glove and mask build-up since the pandemic began. He said it’s mostly in parking lots and along the business corridors, where people may be confused about what to do with their gloves when no trash cans are present.
“Right now, you might see a bunch of gloves in the parking lot because people don’t know what to do with it,” George said. “They’re like, ‘I don’t want these gloves in my car, so I’m gonna throw them out.’”
George said more trash cans would allow people to discard gloves and masks safely. In Germantown, there remain trash cans by the special services district, but George said the few in front of his Chelten Avenue apartment are rarely emptied and left to overflow for several days.
“So city trash cans that are supposed to be picked up every three days have now been full for the past two weeks full of gloves and, and other such products that you shouldn’t be floating around in the area right now,” George said.
So gloves may be on the ground because individuals do not know where to discard a possibly germ-ridden latex glove. For example, last week, the Philadelphia Water company showcased a photo where littered gloves and mask traveled through the sewers and created backup.
Do we even need the gloves?
But the glove problem could be avoided before they hit the ground. Temple University Public Health Professor Heather Murphy said gloves are not a necessity and present false security.
Additionally, touching items in a grocery store, then discarding gloves before you enter your vehicle does not change that your gloves touched your grocery bags which which will now be unloaded with your bare hands. She said it takes many moments of disinfecting your hands to a have a successful grocery store visit and gloves may be slowing shoppers down.
“I think a lot of hand washing and or hand sanitizing is important regardless of gloves and the gloves kind of maybe over, almost over-complicate it and make people do it less possibly,” Murphy said.
Murphy urges everyone to leave gloves and medical masks to professionals. She said, washing your hands and touching your face is the most practical measure to practice safety during this time.