TEXAS, USA — Personal Protective Equipment such as face masks, gloves, and wipes are meant to protect you and others from viruses, but the purpose may be defeated when you don’t dispose of them correctly.
“Not only is PPE litter just unattractive and illegal here in Texas, but most importantly it's very dangerous or it can be. If somebody has a sickness whether it's COVID-19 or anything else, if you're leaving those gloves, those masks, those wipes out for other people to possibly touch, they can also get sick, so it is a bio hazard," said 'Don’t Mess with Texas' campaign coordinator for TxDot Becky Ozuna.
Littering can also be expensive. It isn’t just about hiring more employees to pick up your trash, but you yourself can also be fined.
“You can be fined five hundred dollars every time you litter in Texas and if you throw something out that weighs more than five pounds, you have to pay a two thousand dollar fine. It’s important to not litter. It’s ugly, it’s dangerous, and it’s illegal,” said Ozuna
One nonprofit, 'Keep Texas Beautiful', has volunteers across the state picking up trash, but they're actually discouraging group clean-ups right now because of COVID-19. This doesn't help the amount of litter that continues to grow.
“If people aren’t feeling comfortable going to movie theaters or bowling alleys or where they usually spend their weekends, a lot of them are going out and using our green spaces which is great. It feels a little bit safer, but as a result, more people means more trash. Littering has always been an issue so we just see a little bit more of that," said Keep Texas Beautiful program director Sara Nichols.
Keeping the environment clean and other Texans healthy is an individual responsibility.
“We want to encourage people to make the right decision to leave no trace when you’re in the outdoor area. We actually just ran a great blog on recreating responsibly right now. The best case scenario is when people are out and about, take your trash with you and dispose of it responsibly at home," said Nichols.
If you don’t have trash cans near you, you can always carry a litter bag with you to throw it away correctly later. Litter can also get stuck in the water system and cause an increase in flooding, which remains a big issue in Texas.