HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Virginians have been under a mask mandate for months because of the coronavirus pandemic. But there’s been an unintended side effect — more PPE litter.

Masks and other forms of PPE can be found on the ground scattered across roadways, parking lots and grass in many populated areas.

Mike Baum, the Executive Director of Keep Virginia Beautiful, said the litter is not a pretty sight.

“The pandemic has changed a lot of things — but litter,” Baum said. “Unfortunately, it is even more apparent than it ever has been. People are seeing these more and more out there right now, but it’s a problem that just gets added to all the other litter.”

The characteristics of litter changes all the time, according to Megan Brown of Keep Henrico Beautiful. She said that litter slowed down at the beginning of the pandemic, but PPE on the ground is a new normal this far into 2020.

Baum said it’s important for people to remember that PPE litter could carry coronavirus.

“The thing about these things is they could be contaminated. Who’s gonna pick that up? That’s the problem,” Baum added. “You should take a responsibility yourself as a person that lives in this beautiful state, in this area, to actually not litter it.”

He also said that even though disposable masks may feel like paper, they are not biodegradable.

“These are latex gloves, which is a form of plastic. And this [mask] is a form of cloth plastic-liner mix This is not going to biodegrade by any means,” Baum said.

Baum also said that although we are protecting ourselves from COVID-19, we must also remember to take care of the environment around us. He says to be diligent and protect your children from picking up and wearing masks that they see on the ground.

Localities that make up the Central Virginia region have partnered with PlanRVA to send an anti-litter message called “Don’t Trash Central Virginia” to help learn about the impacts of littering and the difference you can make.

According to a media release from PlanRVA, they recommend employers educate employees and customers about the impacts of litter and implement a litter prevention strategy, among other recommendations.