RIO GRANDE CITY — Although facemasks are in such short supply that they’re being hoarded and stockpiled, disposable gloves, the other key component in a pandemic outfit, are being discarded carelessly in a way that some Rio Grande Valley officials say could cause a public health risk.
Parking lots at supermarkets and businesses across the RGV are strewn with latex gloves, apparently being tossed onto the asphalt by shoppers when they return to their vehicle.
The city of Edinburg addressed the littering on social media last week.
“Don’t drop them in a store, parking lot, or street. You’re putting others’ health at risk,” a flier from the city read. “Keep a bag in your car, throw the stuff in it, and then throw it in your garbage when you get home.”
Gilbert Millan, Rio Grande City planning director, health director and code enforcement director, said he noticed about a dozen pairs of gloves last time he went to the grocery store.
“It’s bad,” he said. “Obviously they just throw them away, whether it’s on the car or in the parking lot or even on top of other vehicles, which is not good because these are the same gloves that have touched everything.”
Millan said that littering can carry legal ramifications, even during a pandemic.
“That action in itself is littering and they can be cited by anyone from a state trooper to city police to a city code enforcement officer,” he said.
In addition to being illegal, carelessly disposing of gloves during the COVID-19 pandemic can be a public health concern, according to Millan.
“Not only are you littering trash, but you’re possibly littering a contaminated material that can contaminate other people,” he said. “With gloves, your brain is thinking, ‘Well, I’m not touching anything, so I’ll just touch everything,’ but the same gloves that touch the door handle of the store touch the fruit in the displays and the cereal box that a kid is eventually going to touch at home.”
Millan said that ultimately someone will have to pick up those gloves laying on the ground, whether it’s a store employee or a homeowner next door.
“Obviously the employees at H-E-B have to remove them, and there you go, somebody has to touch somebody else’s bacteria,” he said. “There’s a lot of wind in parking lots, and a lot of things end up rolling or flying to the nextdoor neighborhood, and of course there will be people picking up that trash, whether it’s volunteers or homeowners.”
According to Millan, the easiest solution to the problem may be adding more trash cans to parking lots at heavily trafficked businesses. He says the city has encouraged businesses to do just that.
“We have talked to some of the store managers, emphasizing more trash cans for not only gloves but plastic bags and other things that people are carelessly dropping,” he said.