BOCA RATON, Fla. — The sight of discarded facemasks, gloves and other personal protective equipment pretty much everywhere over the last year has become a pervasive problem.
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To reduce improperly discarded PPE, Boca Raton Councilman Andy Thomson wants to increase fines for offenders.
Thomson made it a New Year's resolution to pick up trash and clean up neighborhoods while on his periodic runs through the city.
During the councilman's jogs, he said he has noticed a substantial amount of the trash is PPE, including finding 143 masks on the ground within 50 miles.
At the next city council meeting, Thomson said he will propose a $250 fine for anyone who is caught littering PPE, an increase from the current $50 fine for littering.
"If you are going to litter, what is potentially a biohazard, a glove or a mask, you really should be paying an enhanced fine if you are seen doing that," Thomson said.
Jessica Gray-Patterson with Boca Save our Beaches said she agrees with the increased fine.
Her group found multiple masks at one of their recent beach clean-ups. She said people forget that masks thrown away at the beach end up in the ocean.
"In South Florida, we have a lot of rain and wind, so [if ] that mask [is] sitting in a parking lot, a rainstorm washes it to a storm drain," Gray-Patterson said. "We are seeing more masks in the ocean after a year."
Thomson said he is pushing for the increased fine at the state level as well. He adds this fine isn't about money but about creating awareness concerning people dumping a used mask or gloves.
"What we want to do is educate and send a message that this is unacceptable behavior here in the city," Thomson said.
Below is a resolution on the topic: