Littered masks a growing concern around St. John's, says local runner

·2 min read
Jeremy Eaton/CBC
Jeremy Eaton/CBC

A St. John's runner is voicing her concern for the environment while cleaning up dozens of masks littered around the community.

Kim Larouche, a long distance runner who runs Ironman races and has completed several marathons, collects the discarded masks while on her runs.

"They're not little mice hammocks, they're actually pollution. They're made out of plastics, and God knows how long it takes them to deteriorate," she said.

Larouche said she tries to be as safe as possible while collecting discarded masks over the course of longer runs — storing them in a plastic bag and sanitizing her hands after every one she collects — and began posting her findings on her Instagram page.

"I just thought 'Oh, I'll pick this one up,' and then I see five or six more on a five [kilometre] run," she said. And it just goes on and on… I've seen up to 50 on a longer run."

"It's all over the place," she added. "Downtown, it's on the trails, it's up around Windsor Lake. It's everywhere."

Submitted by Kim Larouche
Submitted by Kim Larouche

Larouche said she started posting photos on social media in an effort to get the word out to the public about how many masks she has seen, and that reception from the public has followed a common theme.

"A lot of people are disgusted for sure," she said. "I'm sure they're disgusted by me picking them up and wondering about my safety. But if they're not safe to be out there, then they probably shouldn't be out there."

"I find it a bit disgusting, so that's part of the reason I'm picking them up."

In a tweet last month, St. John's Coun. Maggie Burton reminded the public to be mindful of where disposable masks end up, as their light weight can allow them to travel in the wind.

Dr. Jack Lawson, research scientist for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, added cutting the mask strings is the best practice for disposing a mask, similar to cutting the plastic rings used to sell drink cans or bottles.

Back on the running trail, Larouche recommends using a cloth mask to help limit the number of disposable masks that could make it into the environment.

"It's so much easier," she said.

"You're reducing the amount of plastics that are in the environment. They're easy to wash [and] it's no different than carrying around a disposable mask."

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