STORY AND PHOTO BY SINDY SALMERON
CHRONICLE STAFF WRITER
The personal protective equipment that has been essential to protect individuals against the COVID-19 pandemic, is becoming an environmental threat according to the United Nations.
Disposable masks and gloves have been spotted in the streets, parking lots, and beaches, Globally, and across the country, and this has created the concern that people are incorrectly disposing of their PPE’s.
The PPE environmental concern that has drawn global and national attention is also a Local concern, individuals are worried about the number of unproperly disposed of PPE’s they have seen in stores and parks.
Adel Rajab a Biology professor at Cypress College said that PPE’s are important to contain the pandemic but the problem is what we do afterward with the PPE’s.
The United Nations has estimated that around 75 percent of the personal protective equipment will end up in landfills or floating in the sea, Which will affect marine life because animals can eat them.
“For example, sea turtles and birds will eat them and thinking that they are jellyfish or thinking they’re food, and when they do that because they are plastic they don’t break down, they block their guts and they die,” said Rajab.
Plastics not only affect animals but also affect humans. In a research conducted in 2019, published by the journal of Environmental Science and Technology,
estimated that adults eat about 50,000 microplastic particles every year and children eat about 40,000.
“You don’t know it, because you are eating microplastics, you are eating these tiny particles that you don’t even realize you are consuming, or that you’re breathing in and it just accumulates in your system,” said Rajab.
The UN environment program (UNEP) has urged countries to handle their medical and hazardous waste as “an essential public service.”
The Orange County Waste and Recycling Department Recommends the Public to properly dispose their PPE in trash bins and advocate for the use of Cloth masks that can be worn multiple times and washed.
On Feb. 19, 2021, The Orange County Waste and Recycling Department stated on their website that the companies TerraCycle and Anheuser-Busch Partnered together to Encourage the Proper Disposal of PPE and recycling of PPE’s. These companies will install zero waste boxes in 17 craft Breweries throughout the country to encourage and promote the proper disposal of PPE’s
In a press release President Marcel Michaelis of Brewers Collective, Anheuser-Busch, stated “Sustainability has always been a core focus for our company and our craft brewery partners, and this past year presented a new and unique set of environmental challenges for our industry overall.
Some of the students attending Cypress college think that it’s a good idea what these companies will do because it will benefit the environment.
Ailyn Bahena a student majoring in Dental Hygiene said “it’s a good idea because that will help to prevent more waste from going into the ocean”
Roxann Morales, a student majoring in Mortuary Science said in an email that she agrees with Bahena.
“I think this is a good idea, 100 percent of the masks may no be recycled but a good amount can be, which will help with our carbon footprint,” said Morales.
“We really need to revise, how we think about plastics in general, and in this case, because PPE’s are now in such huge demand, and being used quite a lot, we need to rethink how we are using PPE’s, and what kinds of PPE’s we use.” Said Rajab