Disposable masks and gloves have helped people stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic — but have hurt wildlife.

“We’ve generated something like 7,000 tons of waste every day since the pandemic began, and a lot of the waste has not made its way to the landfill,” said Jan Shadick, executive director of Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Personal protective equipment has blown into parks and riverbanks and come into contact with wildlife — such as becoming tangled in bird’s nests, Shadick says.

Living Sky staff also sometimes see bits of plastic in an animal’s stomach during an autopsy.

Sometimes a mask can get wrapped around an animal’s neck, but Shadick says it’s preventable.

“Just like we used to do with those six-pack pop containers, we always recommend that you snip them so that they didn’t get caught on the animal.”

The Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA) recently added a new category for “most masks collected” to its cleanup campaign.

“This is the first year we’ve counted masks,” CEO Andrea Lafond said.

“We’ve never counted masks in the past, although they have been picked up in numerous quantities.”

The cleanup campaign collected 10,000 pounds of garbage and recycling last year.

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said the campaign is about bringing people together to clean the community.

“It’s huge, right? For the city to try and do that, or Meewasin to try and do that on our own, it would be very, very difficult.”

The clean-up campaign runs from April 22 to May 30, with prizes for the most litter collected.

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