I went for a walk the other day, not a long walk, but on a route I hadn’t walked for a few days. Along the way I picked up over a dozen discarded face masks and the same number of wads of tissue, which I will just call snot rags, because I assume people have blown their nose into some tissues and then just thrown them on the ground. Throwing both away, as a lot of people seem to do, is hardly a hygienic practice and both are a form of litter and hazardous biological waste.

One can find discarded face masks all over the city. Some may have been blown there, other people throw them out of vehicles. People walking also discard a lot. It would be hard to walk a block or two anywhere I the city without encountering them. I have seen people exit stores, where face masks are required and then just throw them down onto the parking lot.

So, for the city, we are talking hundreds, thousands and probably tens of thousands of masks. If you look them up, the standard white and blue masks are made from a non-woven fabric. That fabric is made from polypropylene, which is a thermoplastic, which is made from the hydrocarbons found in oil and gas.

So, in effect people are creating a gigantic oil spill, in and around Yellowknife. One can only speculate at how many of them blow into our lakes and rivers. And yet no one seems to be doing anything to clean up this problem, let alone stop it. That is rather ironic. The government put a deposit and return on plastic bottles, and they banned free plastic bags at store, to cut down on plastic waste and litter. Yet they hand out face masks at several locations and seem to do nothing to deal with their disposal.

Maybe the hospital and busy stores or facilities should have a container at their exits for used masks, with a big sign saying, “If you don’t plan on reusing face masks deposit them here.” Not everyone would comply, but a percentage of the population would and that would be a step in the right direction.

If you add in all the dog and human poop in and around town, the liquor bottles, cigarette butts, fast food containers and other stuff, one could hardly claim we have a clean and pristine environment. It would be interesting to know just how fouled it is and what health risks all of this entail.

Now I don’t want to get too sci-fi about this, but the story is humans probably got the virus from some animal and I recall reports that at least a few dogs and cats have caught the virus from humans. So, if a person with covid blows their nose and throws the tissues on the ground, how long could the covid last there and what would happen if a scavenger like a magpie, dog, fox or vole ate it. Are we in danger of covidtizing our entire environment? Yes, it would make a good sci-fi movie but with all the covid we have in town, fiddler lake might be a concern because I am sure a number of critters drink the water there.

But back to Yellowknife and its hygiene state. Maybe there should be periodic public health audits to see just what the state of our cities health and contamination is. Think about this for a moment. A dog poops on the road. A vehicle drives over the poop and spreads it all over the city. Then people step on a patch of smeared poop and carry it on their shoes into their homes, offices, businesses and restaurants. Then someone drops something on the floor and picks it up. Then someone licks their fingers or blows their nose. That would be a problem.

The stuff we can see is one thing but it’s the stuff we can’t see which is also a risk. So, cleaning litter is important but it’s the stuff we can’t see, that we also have to be concerned about. So, please don’t add to the problem put your garbage in a garbage can..

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