OCEAN COUNTY, NJ – Amid the coronavirus crisis, protective masks have become commonplace. In the case of face masks, the goal is to limit the escape of respiratory droplets and contain the spread. While not a government mandate, some look for added protection by wearing gloves when they perform errands. So, what does all this have to do with the Ocean County Freeholders?

The truth is it shouldn’t be a political issue. However, government officials recognize a problem. Frankly, the subject shouldn’t even be one that catches the attention of local mayors or law enforcement agencies.

“It’s SIGN of the times – plastic gloves and face masks,” submits Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. “However important the protective coverings are to keep everyone safe and healthy; they still need to be disposed of properly after use.”

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County officials haven’t gone so far as proposing ordinances or resolutions concerning the disposal of face masks or gloves. When it comes to providing information on the coronavirus crisis, the Freeholders maintain a page filled with links to essential resources.

However, Vicari’s personal experiences seem to have led him to a couple of simple requests. He decided he needed to speak out after he witnessed plastic gloves strewn across a parking lot, and even thrown into shopping carts.

For starters, Vicari implored people to use what essentially amounts to a commonsense solution. He suggested shoppers bring plastic bags with them while out shopping or visiting other destinations. The bags can easily be tossed away at home.

Vicari also feels that food stores, convenience stores, and other retail establishments should place additional trash cans in their parking lots for the disposal of gloves and masks.

“The easier it is to throw away used gloves, the less likely people will be to simply toss them on the ground,” Vicari said.

In the meantime, the issue concerning the proper use of gloves raises concerns. Experts warn of the threat of cross-contamination. Consider the shopper who uses gloves and picks up items to read nutrition facts, answers a cellphone, and moves on to examine produce.

Vicari isn’t the only one of the Ocean County Freeholders to express concerns about the improper disposal of gloves. Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison, suggests there are other considerations.

“I’ve seen gloves and masks on sidewalks and in the gutters,” Little said. “There is absolutely no reason for this to happen.”

Besides the obvious health risks, rubber gloves pose a danger to sewer systems and the environment.

“Gloves can wash into storm drains and block them up,” Vicari said. “They can also wash into lakes, rivers, and the bay causing environmental hazards.”

Could improper disposal of PPEs hit the pocketbooks of offenders? It all depends. Local officials might take on the example set by the Michigan State Police. Litterers there face fines up to $225.

Was this Ocean County Freeholder’s reminder necessary?  It seems to be a matter of opinion.