While the nation and the world continue to deal with the Coronavirus, one smaller yet important issue has struck locally — and perhaps it’s happing elsewhere, too, depending on who you ask.

While littering is a somewhat common occurrence, it’s now risen to new levels on local streets, in parking lots of big-name stores and elsewhere — and the discarded material is directly related to the pandemic. For whatever the reason, people are discarding N-95 face masks, surgical masks, disposable gloves, used handwipes, empty sanitizer bottles and other COVID-19-related items without regard to the rest of humankind — and those who might need to clean it all up.

In some cases, they’re being left in spots where no one is going to pick them up.

One former public health official even says it amounts to discarding biohazards without proper protection.

“It’s on par with a diabetic taking his or her insulin shot and then simply dumping the needed/syringe right in the middle of a sidewalk,” the official, who asked for anonymity, said. “Sharps have to be disposed of in special containers. It’s not so much different with wipes or masks that could have the virus on them. It’s despicable and extremely irresponsible for anyone to do this.”

One Kearny resident, over this past weekend, went on social media, posted pictures and a video and was “disgusted” by what was out there.

“My trip to ShopRite Kearny this morning, it’s disgusting,” the resident wrote. “Disposable gloves, broken glass, pieces of concrete and this boulder that I drove over pulling into a spot. Manager says he can’t help when people dump things and drop garbage.”

So what is one to do when finding discarded potential bio-hazards? It’s a tricky situation as resources to cite littering are scarce as it is.

Mayor Alberto G. Santos, of Kearny, says he knows of the problem — and he says it’s happening “regionally,” not just here.

“This type of litter is growing in light of the current pandemic and is a regional problem,” Santos said. “With respect to this kind of litter on public streets, in light of the suspension of street sweeping enforcement, this will be an ongoing issue.

“As to store parking lots, store management will be advised so they can engage in more extensive cleanups during overnight hours. These supermarket locations are essential businesses and their workers are doing their best under very stressful conditions. I want to applaud them for staying open in our community.”

Mayor Robert B. Giangeruso, of Lyndhurst, told The Observer these examples are certainly instances of “littering,” but he hasn’t seen much of it — yet — in his township. And generally, to cite someone for littering, an officer of the law must see it happen.

The Township of Nutley addressed the situation in a message sent to residents using its reverse 911 system.

“The township has received increasing complaints about disposable gloves being disposed on the sidewalk or street. Doing this is not only illegal and pollutes our town, but also puts our employees and neighbors at risk when they need to clean it up,” authorities in Nutley said. “Please respect our environment and our neighbors and properly dispose of gloves in the nearest garbage can.”

So for now, there’s a very easy solution — if you must discard disposable gloves, N-95 masks or other pandemic-related items when you’re not at home, do what Nutley officials have said, take the time, for crying out loud, to go to a trash receptacle to get rid of them. If you’re in a parking lot, trash bins are all over the place. There are plenty of rubbish receptacles along major thoroughfares, including Kearny Avenue, Ridge Road, FER Boulevard, Harrison Avenue, Washington Avenue, Franklin Avenue, etc. Take the minute or less that it will require — and throw them away — without putting anyone else into harm’s way.

In North Arlington, meanwhile, police department addressed the situation in a recent Facebook post.

“In the interest of public safety, we kindly ask that you properly dispose of your Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). When you are done using your PPEs (i.e. latex gloves, masks, etc.), please discard them in the nearest garbage can,” the NAPD wrote in a Sunday, March 29, post. “Thank you for your cooperation.”

As an aside, the resident who reported the filth in the ShopRite parking lot also says a manager there took some vegetables off the checkout conveyor belt after noticing the resident had more than two veggies in the overall order.

“You’re only allowed two (vegetables),” he reportedly said.

“No signs, no cleaners, no wipes or paper products, but vegetables,” the resident said.

Learn more about the writer ...

Editor & Broadcaster at 

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.