SEVEN bags of litter were collected by one household in just one afternoon.
The Green Party has urged residents in Southend to use and dispose of PPE responsibly after recording a dramatic spike in the amount of PPE-related litter cleaned up by its volunteers.
Since lockdown, many members of the Green Party have been conducting micro-street cleans of their immediate neighbourhood as part of their daily exercise, whilst strictly adhering to the government’s lockdown social distancing advice.
Whilst the amount of usual litter such as takeaway packaging has not noticeably reduced despite the lockdown, volunteers have noted a “staggering increase” of discarded protective equipment on our streets since the Coronavirus pandemic began.
Items such as surgical masks, gloves, and even plastic face shields have been found discarded in parks, streets, and beaches. These items have since been safely collected and disposed of by neighbourhood Green volunteers.
Our activists have also noticed a dramatic increase in the number of antibacterial single-use cloth wet wipes being found littered in bushes and verges, despite Anglian Water launching a campaign last year to encourage residents in the town to dispose of them correctly.
Discarded PPE poses an unnecessary increase in risk and workload for our town’s refuse collectors, street cleaning teams, and the council’s Parks Department, who as often-overlooked essential workers, are already working hard through lockdown to keep our streets and green spaces safe, open, and tidy.
There is no excuse for discarding used PPE or cleaning wipes on our streets, and doing so could endanger our key workers and result in offenders being issued with fines from £150 to £2500.
You can check online in seconds to see how best to clean, recycle, or dispose of your used PPE correctly and safely, and we highly recommend residents take used PPE home with them to decide what to do with it there.
Items such as gloves and masks pose a significant risk to wildlife, especially in a marine environment where ingestion can cause fatal suffocation to many animals. Additionally, many single-use latex and vinyl gloves are un-recyclable and do not biodegrade, meaning that PPE litter discarded now can pose a threat to wildlife for potentially thousands of years if disposed of incorrectly.
“Many people across Southend are understandably seeking out and using protective gloves and masks in a bid to contain and stop the spread of the Coronavirus. Whilst I’d encourage residents to utilise whatever protection they deem necessary to feel safe, I’d strongly recommend people check online how to dispose of their PPE correctly, and to do so.”
– SEEGP Coordinator, James Vessey-Miller.
Keeping parks and green spaces open to the public during this crisis is essential to maintaining the physical and mental wellbeing of those residents who do not have access to green space at home. Ensuring that these open spaces remain open, but unaffected by visitors should be a top priority for Southend Council.
Despite the increase in litter, closing parks, gardens, and beaches is not the answer and will disproportionately affect those from low-income backgrounds who cannot access the outdoors from the safety of home.
Nationally, The Green Party has urged the government to help local authorities redeploy staff from non-essential roles in order to keep parks and green spaces open.
The Greens are also calling on the government to make park maintenance a statutory duty for local authorities and ensure that funding is provided to reverse the cuts felt across 92% of parks departments.