WESTFIELD, NJ — Used gloves and masks belong in the garbage — and nowhere else: not in the recycling and not littered on local streets.
The town’s recycling provider, Giordano Company, is reporting that large amounts of such personal protective equipment are creating a hazard at its recycling plant, where workers must hand separate them from recycling loads during the coronavirus pandemic.
“My biggest concern is making sure the employees are safe,” said Tiffanie Nyzio, manager of Giordano Company. “We’re an essential service, and so we have to continue working. These people are fearful to come to work as it is, and when they see these items in the recycling, it scares them.”
The used masks and gloves could carry the coronavirus that they are intended to protect its users from, Nyzio said. The problem of poorly placed personal protective equipment, she added, significantly worsened after the CDC changed its guidelines on the use of masks, leading to their expanded use.
So Nyzio reached out to towns in the company’s service area, which encompasses municipalities in Union and Essex County. Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle was among those to hear the call.
“These items are NOT considered household recycling, and should be properly disposed of as trash,” Brindle said in a nightly update on COVID-19 Tuesday. “Thanks in advance for your cooperation.”
Mayors all along the Raritan Valley Line are saying it.
“These belong on your face & hands NOT on the sidewalk, parking lots, train platforms or recycling. Please dispose of in the trash,” the Raritan Valley Line Mayors Alliance said in a Tweet Wednesday.
The fine for littering in Westfield is $100, the town code shows.
Longtime Westfield resident Tony LaPorta said he has seen the gloves and masks discarded on sidewalks and streets all around the town, including in Mindowaskin Park. LaPorta said he witnessed this before the local parks closed due to COVID-19.
“I shake my head and I say why would people be so inconsiderate to litter,” LaPorta said. “And now who is supposed to pick these up?”
That job often falls to public works employees.
Public Works Director Greg O’Neil said people improperly disposing of the protective gear endanger not just public works employees, but also the public.
There are well over 100 public garbage cans in Westfield, O’Neil said.
“This irresponsible behavior needs to stop immediately. We need to make sure we dispose of these correctly, in garbage cans,” O’Neil said. “There are plenty of garbage cans in town.”
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