By Shakir Reshamwala

People have been repeatedly urged for months to wear masks, gloves and personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. It is even a crime to be in public without a mask, with penalties of jail terms or fines or both. While compliance has been satisfactory, the downside is that the streets of Kuwait are littered with discarded masks and gloves.

According to news reports, the issue has prompted environmental organizations to sound the alarm. Around the world, some local governments have instituted fines for littering involving masks and gloves, and police departments have warned that improperly discarding PPE is a crime.

Conservationists have warned that the coronavirus pandemic could spark a surge in ocean pollution – adding to a glut of plastic waste that already threatens marine life – after finding disposable masks floating like jellyfish and waterlogged latex gloves scattered across seabeds.

From parks to beaches to roads across Kuwait, one can find contorted masks in various throes of death, while plastic gloves billow in the breeze before impaling themselves in fences and trees. Littering has always been a problem in Kuwait, with improper garbage disposal, no segregation of waste, little to no recycling of various materials and overflowing landfills.

Add to this rampant food waste, a throwaway consumerist culture and a lack of civic sense amongst the public – think tissues and cigarette butts flung from moving cars and rubbish left behind at beaches and parks – and we have a stinking mess that is difficult to extract ourselves from. A new wave of potentially-contaminated refuse will only make matters worse.