'This is absolutely shameful': Workers are forced to clean up discarded used gloves and masks as shoppers litter in shopping carts and parking lots across America

Courtesy of Linda St. DenisDiscarded gloves and disinfectant wipes outside a Safeway store in Castro Valley, California.
  • Shoppers are discarding used gloves, masks, and wipes in the parking lots of retail stores.
  • “The parking lots are littered with gloves constantly, every day,” said an employee of a California Safeway store. “Who knows how long the virus lasts on these gloves. It’s maddening.”
  • Some local governments and law enforcement agencies are now threatening to fine people caught discarding their gloves and masks on the ground.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Retailers are facing a rampant problem with shoppers discarding gloves, masks, and wipes in their parking lots and empty shopping carts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The parking lots are littered with gloves constantly, every day,” said Linda St. Denis, who works at a Safeway grocery store in California. “Who knows how long the virus lasts on these gloves. It’s maddening.”

Shoppers across the US are using the protective gear while they purchase groceries and other goods, then tossing the used items on the ground when they exit the store.

St. Denis said her Safeway store’s courtesy clerks, whose duties include bagging groceries and cleaning bathrooms, must now clean up the discarded gear.

Aldi glovesCourtesy of Ann TerriUsed gloves and wipes outside an Aldi store in Wallingford, Connecticut.

Research suggests that live coronavirus particles can live on a surface for anywhere between three hours and three days. This means that people cleaning up the disposed gloves and masks could come into contact with virus particles if the person wearing them was infected.

Retail workers and others have been complaining about this issue for weeks and sharing photos on social media of gloves, masks, and cleaning gear littering parking lots.

Ann Terri recently shared a photo on Facebook of a patch of grass near an Aldi store in Wallingford, Connecticut, that was covered in discarded gloves.

“This is the hill next to Aldi in Wallingford covered in used rubber gloves and trash,” she wrote. “This is absolutely shameful.”

In response to the growing problem, some local governments and law enforcement agencies have been urging residents to stop throwing their gloves on the ground and to use trash bins instead.

The Bellingham, Massachusetts, Board of Health has said it plans to visit stores frequently and fine anyone fails to properly discard protective gear.

Law enforcement officials in Ottawa, Canada, have threatened $US365 fines to anyone who tosses medical gloves and masks on the ground, calling it a health risk.

Some grocery stores have tried to mitigate the problem by designating certain trash bins outside stores for gloves and masks.

As the spread of the coronavirus continues, the problem may only continue to worsen, barring a widespread effort to ban the surge in littering.

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