September 21, 2023

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Masks and gloves get lost in the trash, not recycling, cities tell residents

COVID waste

Denise Clarification, The Canadian Press

Friday, October 2, 2020 3:25 PM EDT

Many Ontario cities are reminding residents to throw their disposable masks, gloves and wipes in the trash, not in the recycling bin.

York Region, which owns Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan, said residents have been keeping most of those items in their recycling or green bins since the Kovid-19 pandemic hit.

Each month, waste management personnel find more than 120,000 masks and gloves in their recycling sorting facility, the municipality said.

It said frontline workers were at higher risk of getting and spreading the novel coronavirus.

“They are exposed to these substances. Ultimately, we want to protect the health and safety of those workers,” said Laura McDowell, director of the York Region’s environmental promotion and protection division.

McDowell said such items, which are now widely used, contaminate batches of recycling that are sold to provide revenue for the area.

From Monday, York Region waste workers said they would not empty blue bins with those items and put a warning sticker on them.

Like Mississauga, the nearby Peel Region, which includes Brampton and Caledon, also urged residents to throw such items in the trash.

“To help keep everyone safe, we encourage residents to double-bag personal protective equipment, including masks, before disposing in the trash,” said Erwin Pascal, Peel Region’s waste program planning manager.

“These items are not in recycling.”

Meanwhile, the city of Toronto has been asking residents since March to keep tissue and paper towels in the trash instead of the green bin, and masks and gloves are always in the trash.

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Toronto said the city has been communicating about the proper disposal of masks and gloves through their website and social media since the beginning of the epidemic.

It said audits on the proportion of personal protective equipment in recycling increased from 0.06 per cent in June to 0.63 per cent in September.

Both Toronto and Peel said they have seen litter and gloves growing in public places and are urging people to keep those items in the trash.

This report of the Canadian Press was first published on October 2, 2020.

The story was produced with the financial support of Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.