Data was gathered from six weeks of waste sampling at five regional transfer stations before B.C.’s indoor mask mandate came into effect in public spaces. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Data was gathered from six weeks of waste sampling at five regional transfer stations before B.C.’s indoor mask mandate came into effect in public spaces. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Metro Vancouver residents tossed half a billion masks, gloves, wipes into landfills last year

This amounts to 109 million discarded masks, 48 million wipes and 371 million gloves, report says

A new report shows a downside to Metro Vancouver residents using personal protective equipment to safeguard themselves and others from COVID-19 – all the trash it’s created.

The region’s Zero Waste Committee discovered the most commonly disposed personal protective equipment items were gloves, followed by face masks.

In total, Metro Vancouver residents disposed of 528 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) in 2020 – including 109 million masks, 48 million wipes and 371 million gloves.

Data was gathered from six weeks of waste sampling at five regional transfer stations before B.C.’s indoor mask mandate came into effect in public spaces in mid-November.

RELATED: Masks mandatory in all public indoor, retail spaces in B.C.

Terry Fulton, senior project engineer with Metro Vancouver, noted an uptick in residential garbage – items like take-out containers as well as paper and plastic carryout bags.

“As 2020 was not a typical year, these results are not necessarily indicative of any long-term trends in single-use item disposal,” Fulton emphasized.

The larger scope of the waste composition study is that PPE accounted for around five per cent of waste in 2020, and the region’s trash levels were down.

The report attributed this to an overall reduction in commercial waste in Metro Vancouver, as many companies and businesses faced shutdowns earlier in the pandemic.

As it stands, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry approves of mask-wearing, saying it can help “reduce droplets you shed into the environment,” curbing the spread of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine



sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

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