Initiative grows for province wide mask clean up

On March 28, Vermilion residents will set out to clean up the additional masks that have been littered in their communities along with any garbage they see along the way.

Starting in Lethbridge, the ‘Community Mask Clean Up’ initiative has grown to include every urban municipality in Alberta. 

“Last week, my sister Alyssa Kusalik, was walking with her two young children finding an excessive number of masks – within five-blocks she picked up 87. Later a group of five people cleaned up more than 1,200 masks in only three hours as well as five large garbage bags of general refuse in Lethbridge.” said Vermilion resident, Candice Anderson.

“Anyone can agree that pollution is not cool, and unfortunately it’s not just a problem in Lethbridge, or in Alberta, but a worldwide issue. I’m hoping people step forward and that this can give us a sense of unity across Alberta.

With mandatory masking, an excess of personal protective equipment on top of the regular amount of pollution is being seen after the winter thaw.

Anderson said the Community Mask Clean Up initiative is not a climate change support group or environmental group, they are not a pro or anti (specifically vaccine or mask) group, they are just concerned citizens who want to help inspire others to do their part by setting an example to follow.

“Littering in general is bothersome – it is a detriment to our world. I have two small children and I don’t want to be raising them in an environment where they think it’s okay to put their garbage wherever they see fit,” said Anderson.

Community Mask Clean Up organizers are working with municipal leaders and small businesses, in various communities. This event is not to take away from any pre-existing community initiatives, but rather to assist with the additional mask pollution.

So far, Anderson said among elected reps there will be a councillor from Wainwright, Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jackie Armstrong Homeniuk, and Vermilion Mayor Caroline McAuley, participating.

She’s very pleased with the response they’ve received so far and will continue approaching towns and community groups to create awareness and encourage their involvement including everywhere from Lethbridge to Strathmore, Grande Prairie, Lac la Biche, and Bonnyville.

As a minimal risk activity, she is hoping people are able to help out. She encourages participants to wear gloves, proper footwear, and not to trespass onto private property. She said the amount of time you can donate is up to your own discretion and ability.

“We honestly hope you find barely any masks, and whether there’s one volunteer or hundreds – each effort matters,” said Anderson.

“I want to say that we are amazed with the support of our communities and the unity we are seeing across Alberta, and the shining example of what is still positive in this world.”

The initiative will run from 12 – 4 pm, with participants meeting at their local town office at 4 pm to photograph the amount collected and share with the public group online. All distancing requirements and proper disposal following the event will be required.

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