In addition to keeping millions of people homebound and concerned about slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, the 2020 pandemic has taxed our wastewater systems and polluted our streams with unflushable tissues, wipes, gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment.
PPE discarded onto the street can even make their way through storm drains to streams and rivers and heavy rains. Over 129 billion masks are estimated to have been used globally every month of the pandemic so far. These masks have made their way to recycle bins, tangling up local sorting facilities; littering trails and sidewalks; and washing out into waterways, where they pose a threat to marine life.
National trash pickup organizations are tackling the issue with “plogging” events for local volunteers. Plogging combines the scenic exercise of jogging and trail running with the service of volunteer litter cleanup. If you don’t feel comfortable joining a group for an in-person day of service, you can still get together with friends online for a virtual plog — and keep score of items safely collected individually while out on a socially-distanced jog.
Remember: if it’s on the ground, it’s in our water!