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Latex could soon be showing up in our local streams and rivers - thanks to discarded gloves

Last Updated Apr 17, 2020 at 11:07 pm PST

Thoughtlessly discarded latex gloves might wind up in the aquatic ecosystem. (Courtesy Richard Stewart/Facebook)
Summary

Once the rain returns, the gloves will get swept into catch basins and down storm drains

Latex has been shown to take years to biodegrade

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Not only are they an eye-sore – thoughtlessly discarded latex gloves might wind up in the aquatic ecosystem.

White, blue, and even black latex gloves can be spotted strewn around city streets these days.

For now, they’re not going anywhere.

“A car will run over the gloves perhaps a dozen times and it will break into little pieces,” explains Richard Stewart, who is mayor of Coquitlam and also the chair of Metro Vancouver’s liquid waste committee.

But the rain will eventually make a return.

“Those little pieces of latex will get swept up by the water and will end up in a storm drain that leads to local streams that feed into the Fraser River and ultimately the ocean.”

What all that plastic could do to the aquatic environment is really unknown, notes Stewart. The Marine Conservation Society, based in the U.K.,  says it can take months or even years for rubber to break down, which is why it supports a ban on balloons.

“We haven’t had this kind of challenge in the past, where thousands of gloves are being discarded in the streets. It poses for us a lot of concern because of the likelihood these plastics end up in the ocean for a long, long time,” says Stewart.

The longer the plastic persists in the environment the greater the chances it will interact with sea life. EcoWatch says rubber can choke or entangle animals.

“They could be being consumed by aquatic animals, who won’t be able to digest them and even poison some of them, I suspect,” fears Stewart. “This isn’t going to end well if we keep heading down this path and keep disrespecting the environment. We need to discard them properly.”

Rubber also poses a challenge for the storm drain system itself.

“Leaves can biodegrade, at least. If you clog it with rubber, the system doesn’t correct itself. So someone is going to have to dig into that pipe and find the cause of the plug.”

Fortunately, he has noticed fewer inappropriately discarded gloves over the past week. But he says when the rains come, he doesn’t want catch basins to be plugged up with latex and rubber.