COVID-19 Cleanup: The Proper Way of Discarding Masks, Gloves

The good news: People are increasingly wearing gloves and masks, or home-made face coverings, in public to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19. The bad news: too many people are littering supermarket parking lots and streets by improperly disposing of these masks and gloves.

As the U.S. marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, reminders about not littering take on a much higher level of importance during the pandemic. Doctors and infectious disease experts say that littering with such PPEs (personal protective equipment) can cause the coronavirus to spread more easily.

Animation by Irina de Souza.

So what is the right way to dispose of masks, gloves and disinfectant wipes? Put them in a trash can or your home garbage. But make sure you take off the PPE properly.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds the public that the outside of gloves and masks can be contaminated. It recommends using one gloved hand to grab the palm of the other glove and peel it off. Then washing your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.

The CDC says to grab the bottom ties of your mask, and then the ones at the top, and remove the mask without touching the front. Be sure not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth after removing both the mask and gloves. Also, wash your hands thoroughly afterremoving your face mask or face covering.

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