People who are caught littering used masks face a fine of up to NT$6,000, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday, as more masks are being found on beaches amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beach cleaning volunteers said they have found an increasing number of masks for adults and children in a variety of colors, Society of Wilderness chairwoman Liu Yueh-mei (劉月梅) said, calling on the government to increase public education and implement regulations about garbage disposal.
Mask littering pollutes the environment and threatens public health, as masks with nonwoven fabrics cannot naturally decompose, while used masks might carry the virus, Greenpeace Taiwan campaigner Chang Kai-ting (張凱婷) said.
Photo: Lo Chi, Taipei Times
As human-to-human transmission remains the primary method of infection for COVID-19, garbage bins that contain disposed masks in urban areas are more likely to become a vector of transmission than those at less populated seaside areas, National Taiwan University College of Public Health dean Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權) said.
Masks with fabrics that do not decompose are classified as general waste, and people caught littering face a fine of between NT$1,200 and NT$6,000 under the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法), EPA Department of Waste Management Director-General Lai Ying-ying (賴瑩瑩) said.
The EPA would ask local authorities to increase patrolling and cleaning in areas in which littered masks are more likely to be found and post more notices, she added.
In related news, a woman buying masks at a pharmacy in Taipei on Friday demanded that a pharmacist kneel and apologize after they handed her the wrong National Health Insurance card, sparking criticism.
Although the pharmacist said that she had asked the customer to check her card before leaving, she still knelt and apologized when the customer returned to fetch the correct card.
In a statement yesterday, the Taiwan Pharmacist Association denounced the request.
Most people are patient when lining up to buy masks, but a few have treated pharmacists disrespectfully, such as the demand that the pharmacist kowtow in apology, which has severely humiliated the pharmacist and affected the morale of all other pharmacists working hard to protect public health, it said.
The association would provide pharmacists who experience similar treatment with legal counseling resources, it said, calling on people to respect medical professionals during the pandemic.
Additional reporting by Lin Hui-chin
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