Civic Leaders Hearing Few Complaints About PPE Discarded in City Streets

By Dan Murphy and Lauren Bennett

While the sight of discarded face-masks, surgical gloves and other discarded Personal Protective Equipment on the city’s streets has become increasingly more commonplace in recent weeks, leaders of some neighborhood civic groups have heard few concerns from residents to this effect.

On Wednesday, April 1, the Public Works Department tweeted images of city workers sweeping up face masks and rubber gloves from the sidewalk with this message: “PWD crews are working very hard during this difficult time, but we need @CityOfBoston residents to help. We continue to find discarded rubber gloves and masks on our sidewalks and streets. Please be respectful of your neighbors and dispose of your trash properly. Don’t litter!” Concerns over this issue also prompted a follow-up statement from Chris Coakley, head of the department, urging residents to follow the guidance of public health officials by disposing of masks, gloves and other trash in proper waste receptacles, according to The Boston Globe.

Mayor Martin Walsh also warned Bostonians at several of his press conferences earlier this month to properly dispose of masks and gloves in trash receptacles, and not on the street or in parking lots. The City has reported seeing many masks and gloves left in grocery store parking lots as well. 

“Let’s be good neighbors and let’s keep making sure our communities are clean and safe,” Mayor Walsh said.

Yet nearly a month later, few residents have raised the issue with the leaders of their neighborhood civic groups.

Martyn Roetter, who chairs the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay board of directors, said he has only observed a few discarded face-masks and gloves during his routine walks of the neighborhood, and that the organization hasn’t received many calls on the matter.

“There’s nothing substantial, no more common than discarded Coke bottles or plastic containers,” he said, adding that while he had seen some discarded Personal Protective Equipment around supermarkets, it was unclear whether people had recklessly disposed of the items of if the wind carried them to the sidewalk instead.

Just the same, Roetter said, “Discarding face masks intentionally is reprehensible because it’s potentially harmful.”

Over in between the Back Bay and the Fenway, George Lewis, Jr. of the Charlesgate Alliance said he’s only seen “a few here and there. Not too bad.”

The same seems to ring true in certain parts of the South End, too. Bob Barney, President of the Claremont Neighborhood Association, said he saw some a few weeks ago but he added: “I have not been on the streets as much with the stay at home guidance,” he said.

Chester Square Neighbors president Carol Blair said she’s seen “more gloves than masks,” but she said she has seen an overall uptick in the amount of garbage being left on the streets, adding that some good neighbors who usually pick up excess trash in the neighborhood might be “less inclined to do so during this crisis of contagion.”

Patricia Tully, executive director of the Beacon Hill Civic Association, said while the organization hasn’t received many calls and emails regarding discarded face-masks, she has seen them “everywhere” while walking around the city.

“It’s really disgraceful,” she said.

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