This Verdun man is keeping the city clean, one discarded mask at a time

Mask Garbage

Masks may be a necessary part in preventing the spread of COVID-19, but they're also becoming an increasingly common eyesore on the ground. That's where Jody Aveline comes in.

The Verdun man has been out most days with his bike, a poker and a garbage bag, doing his part to clean up the discarded masks that litter the city streets, sidewalks and green areas.

“This is the new catastrophe, the new dilemma, the new problems that we're going to pass on to our offspring and generations to come,” he said. “I said to myself, 'I gotta get involved.'”

By some estimates, more than 100 billion masks and 50 billion plastic gloves are being used every month around the world, with many being tossed on the streets. Conservationists have sounded the alarm that the products could take a century or more to decompose and often end up in waterways.

While some cities have taken to handing out tickets for throwing masks on the ground, Montreal is not one of them. A spokesperson for the city said the problem isn't severe but didn't rule out adding more trash cans if needed.

But Aveline says the masks are definitely a problem.

“Leaving my house on Godin St., driving down Verdun and going to Wellington and coming back, I would pick up like 18,” he said. “Yesterday, I went out and picked up 64 masks and six individual gloves, so three pairs. The vast majority of masks are 3M masks.”

Aveline called on companies like 3M to divert money to help keep city streets clean.

“The companies that make them, for example 3M, they're profiting off this pandemic and need to bear some responsibility for their ecological footprint.”

3M did not respond to requests for comment.  

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