Column: Curb PPE Littering In Nassau

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In all corners of Nassau County, the littering of personal protective equipment (PPE) items, such as gloves and masks, is becoming commonplace.

Throughout our supermarket parking lots, beaches, parks, roadways and communities, the littering of hazardous used gloves and masks has, quite frankly, become atrocious.

As Nassau County continues to reach benchmarks and take important steps towards reopening, even more residents will be wearing masks and gloves as a part of daily life. Therefore this problem will not just persist, but will be exacerbated.

That is why I have introduced legislation to extend the county’s littering laws to specifically address littering of PPE anywhere in Nassau County.

Currently, the county only fines residents who litter on county property. This legislation will specifically prohibit the littering of PPE anywhere in Nassau County. It will only remain in effect when there is an ongoing state or local declaration of disaster emergency, such as we have now.

Because health experts say COVID-19 can live on the surfaces of these items for as long as a week, this litter is not only a blight, but it is a legitimate public health hazard and an obstacle to our region’s long-term recovery.

Moreover, littering of PPE endangers the health of our essential workers, damages our environment, and has an overall deleterious effect on our quality of life.

Due to the widespread financial hardships, many Long Islanders are facing while COVID-19 stay-at-home orders are active, I hope to work with the administration to incorporate a community service requirement that can be completed in lieu of paying a fine.

Furthermore, I have asked both the county and private businesses to increase the number of receptacles available to residents where possible so that we are prepared when our region begins to re-open.

Legislator Doc Spencer plans to introduce similar legislation in Suffolk, and we hope legislators across the state will follow suit as well.

Littering is unacceptable in any form. But the littering of PPE not only harms the environment and our quality of life, but it poses a direct threat to the millions of Americans working valiantly each day to keep us safe, to keep society operating, and to get us back on our feet.

Right now, the best thing you can do to help flatten the curve is to stay home and stop the spread. But if you have to go out, please behave responsibly and throw out your masks and gloves.

That small action in itself could save a life.

Joshua Lafazan is a Nassau County Legislator, representing the 18th District, which includes many areas in the Town of Oyster Bay.

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