Volunteers are worried Kiwis have become complacent about littering after stacks of PPE waste have washed up on New Zealand beaches.
The founder of a Wellington clean-up group has raised the alarm over the waste, following a spike in latex gloves and face masks appearing at Petone beach.
Plogging [picking up litter and jogging] in Petone founder Michelle Stronach-Marsh said over the lockdown she saw the amount of PPE litter in the area skyrocket, but there was an overall reduction in rubbish.
"I went out every day for a run or a walk and I observed a huge amount of PPE."
She said things were particularly bad under alert level 3 and 4, however she did not start picking up litter again until alert level 2.
"I started to pick up a lot of the PPE, it was gloves predominantly and all different kinds of face masks."
The volunteer said there also appeared to have been a drop in drug utensils like needles being found on the beach.
"Alcohol vessels like cans and bottles in particular, have dropped dramatically. From a drug paraphernalia perspective I'm almost seeing nothing at all."
Last year, she told the Herald she was finding the needles almost daily at Petone beach.
Sustainable Coastline's operational teams also noticed an increase in the amount of gloves and other PPE gear along New Zealand coastlines.
Co-founder Camden Howitt said plastic and rubber gloves were the main offenders and some had shown up in places where they hadn't previously been found.
"If were disposing of things poorly we're not protecting our health and the marine environment. So it's really about that if you are deciding to use it, that it's getting in the appropriate place afterwards."
Howitt told the Herald people also should consider whether they needed PPE in the first place.
University of Canterbury Environmental Science director Dr Sally Gaw said PPE and other waste can end up in rivers or coastlines which could cause it to break down and release chemicals.
"Use PPE when you need to and when you don't need to, don't use it. And when you have used it, dispose of it appropriately so it doesn't end up in the environment."
Gaw said people needed to be conscious of where they were disposing of waste, and if they thought it would get blown out of the bin, then they could put it in a container and dispose of it at home.
Hutt City Council head of infrastructure contracts John Middleton said contractors saw a huge drop in the amount waste being dumped in bins over lockdown.
"During level 2 it basically rose back to pre-Covid levels, so nothing markedly different."
He said they didn't notice anything of significance, however he did see some gloves in the bins.
"In my opinion, I think people have been a bit better, we haven't noticed a lot of litter around the streets or parks, but with the Petone beach I'll probably hazard a guess and some of that could have come from the river."