PPE could lead to more plastic pollution

Updated: November 17, 2020 06:16 PM
Created: November 17, 2020 02:24 PM

Everyone has likely seen a mask or plastic glove on the ground by now. And if you're in Superior and see one, researchers at UW-Superior want to know about.

"We are asking people to take a picture of what they find. And they can send it to me, with the GPS coordinates, or an address so I can document it on a map," explained Callie Lier, an undergrad double major in biology and environmental science. 

She then maps out where the PPE is found, and they are going to look at trends. Already, more than 200 masks and gloves have been found at 20 places around Superior.

She's working with Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza, a well-known researcher in the world of plastics and microbeads.

Together, they are going to look at how the pandemic has increased our plastic use, and how that affects our problem with plastic pollution.

Dr. Rios Mendoza said we need to remember plastic isn't just something that ends up in the garbage, since most of it doesn't decompose or break down. "Later they will find it, masks or gloves, in the streets. And then they find their way to the rivers and lakes and the ocean. This is why we have a big problem," she said.

If you'd like to send a photo of discarded PPE, along with a location of where you found it:

Email Callie Lier at clier@uwsuper.edu

They also are encouraging people to be mindful about their plastic use, even during a time when more places are using single-use containers.

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