Carelessly discarded face masks have been part of the cityscape in Bonn for two years. A man from the southern part of the city picked them up and collected a whole mountain. But Bonnorange warns: Collecting them is not without danger.
Robert Krause-Traudes has collected an impressive mountain of masks. He is annoyed that more and more surgical and FFP2 masks end up on the pavements, and that is why he set about the task of collecting them one Saturday with his children. "We were out and about in Südstadt for an hour and found 47 masks, every 50 metres it felt like," he sums up.
It's not exactly hygienic. "I took a long stick and collected them," he says. No gloves, no tongs - he'll be smarter next time. He also chooses the time of day: he left relatively early, when some of the masks were still frozen to the ground. Two of his children, aged three and five, rode ahead on their bicycles and indicated when they had found a new mask, often in bushes where the wind might have blown it. But they were not supposed to touch them.
Much encouragement from passers-by
"This action received a lot of positive encouragement from pedestrians," says Krause-Traudes. Because the face masks that are lying around everywhere are a nuisance to everyone. They have been part of the cityscape for almost two years now, which Jérôme Lefèvre also regrets. "For our city cleaning service, protective masks are now part of the waste that unfortunately belongs to littering in the cityscape," the Bonnorange press spokesperson informs us in response to a GA enquiry. "Littering" is the new German term for the careless throwing away of waste on streets and in other public areas.
"This puts them alongside disposable coffee cups, cigarette butts and other to-go rubbish that is carelessly thrown away and has to be collected by Bonnorange staff during street cleaning." For all this, there are rubbish bins, ashtrays and even chewing gum walls in the city centre. Nevertheless, a lot of rubbish ends up on the street, and this now includes masks - at least as long as masks are compulsory.
The hygiene aspect is also an issue for the Bonnorange staff. "Litter such as dog excrement, used handkerchiefs and protective masks can harbour pathogens," says Lefèvre. "It is important to protect against this. Our staff do this by equipping them with hand boxes, brooms, tongs and gloves so there is no hygienic risk." That's why, he says, even ambitious private individuals who want to rid their neighbourhoods of mouth-nose protection lying around should think of appropriate tools.
Waste is incinerated
Lefèvre emphasises: "Ideally, masks should be disposed of in the domestic residual waste. This is incinerated - just like the waste collected by the Bonnorange city cleaning service - so that all pathogens of diseases are rendered harmless." So it is better to take the used mask home with you than to simply drop it somewhere.
For Krause-Traudes, the campaign was worth it because of the response, the good feeling, and because a small part of Bonn looks a little cleaner again. He would also organise it again but a little bit better prepared. The amount he accumulated in a very short time also shows that the mask problem does not only occur where mouth and nose have to be compulsorily covered. The mask obligation in the pedestrian zone of the city centre is only valid until Ash Wednesday, according to the press office. After that, it will also be lifted in queues.
Original text: Stefan Knopp
Translation: Mareike Graepel