Residents in Sydney’s west will be slapped with a $450 fine if busted throwing face masks on the ground, as the mandatory wearing of the protection equipment has increased the garbage threat.
Blacktown City Council says the new rule is in response to a build-up of rubbish in the area and it comes as numerous reports across the world warn of the environmental damage of single-use masks.
A BBC report from September cautioned consumers that disposable masks were “causing enormous plastic waste”, with the straps posing a risk to wildlife.
The western Sydney council alerted residents to the new fine through a Facebook post.
“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic we are seeing face masks littered on footpaths, in carparks and even in shopping trolleys,” the council’s post declared.
“Littering these items can put other community members at risk of contracting COVID-19. Littering is illegal and a $450 aggravated littering fine will be issued to anyone caught littering a face mask.”
In a press conference earlier on Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the recent run of zero locally acquired cases meant the state was likely to return to “pre-Avalon” conditions next week.
But she said the wearing of masks mandate could remain in place “indefinitely”.
“We’re still looking at the impact of the various strains of the virus that are emerging, and we just want to give people that additional line of defence,” the Premier told reporters.
Ms Berejiklian was referring to several new strains of COVID-19 that have emerged recently in countries like the UK and South Africa that are believed to be more transmissible if not deadlier.
The mask mandate was introduced on January 4 and means people risk a $200 fine for failing to wear a face mask in public indoor settings, such as public transport and supermarkets.
It was one of several tough new restrictions put in place to stamp out an outbreak that began in the Sydney northern beaches suburb of Avalon in mid-December. The outbreak seeded multiple new clusters around the city before community cases finally reached zero again this week.