Litter from personal protective equipment is becoming a growing problem, councils have said, warning it could be spreading infections.
Almost half of the 187 councils responding to the District Council’s Network survey confirmed that instances of people discarding masks, gloves and other PPE have been steadily increasing during the pandemic.
As well as being unsightly and potentially dangerous for pets and wildlife, there is a risk that they could spread infection, the organisation said.
The World Health Organisation has cautioned that appropriate disposal is essential to avoid any increase in transmission.
Earlier this week, the UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor Patrick Vallance warned there could be 50,000 coronavirus cases per day next month, leading to 200-plus daily deaths, if the rate of the disease’s spread was not tackled.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said there were now “significant rates of transmission” of coronavirus in the UK, with the “great majority” of areas facing an increase.
This problem comes as nearly nine in 10 councils have seen an increase in recyclable waste since lockdown measures were imposed in March, with some weeks being like Christmas collections.
Mass home working and a rise in online shopping are believed to be the key factors behind the increase.
Councillor Dan Humphreys, District Councils’ Network Lead Member for Enhancing Quality of Life, said:“PPE waste is becoming a problem for many councils with more communities sadly seeing it become a normal part of litter left on the streets and in other public spaces.
“Not only does this blight local areas, but it also risks spreading infection. Face masks, gloves and other forms of PPE are designed to protect people from infection, but poor disposal risks doing the opposite.”
The survey found that for some councils, fly-tipping, dog bin waste and garden waste has all increased in recent months.
Additionally local authorities in tourist areas have needed to deploy extra resources to manage litter bins and recycling banks.
District councils in England deliver 86 out of 137 essential local government services to over 22 million people – 40 per cent of the population – and cover 68 per cent of the country by area.