PETALING JAYA, Aug 5 — Freelance journalist Norman Goh has created a photo series showing the grim effects of littering used face masks on Malaysian streets.
The dark and gritty pictures show the protective gear carelessly discarded in public places such as roads, sidewalks, and car parks across the Klang Valley.
Goh told Malay Mail that he was inspired to share the photos with his friends and online followers after seeing images in the news of Malaysian frontliners dressed head-to-toe in personal protective equipment (PPE).
He hopes his pictures can be a wake-up call for people to dispose of their waste in the correct manner and prevent posing any health risks to frontliners who are tasked with keeping our streets clean.
“I thought people ought to know and be reminded about the proper disposal of used masks, rather than throwing them around just like cigarette butts or tissue papers.
“It’s common sense to dispose of our trash properly and in this case, we should not put our hardworking frontliners in cleaning jobs at risk,” said Goh.
Goh, who hails from Kuching, Sarawak, said it’s becoming increasingly common for him to see used face masks littering the ground when he goes out.
“It began with a short conversation with my friend when we were out for food and we noticed that there is a gradual frequency of used masks (being littered).
“We felt that such behaviour was unacceptable and despite reminders and warnings by the authorities, certain quarters of the public don’t seem to be bothered.”
Goh used his smartphone to capture the photos and was intent on making them stand out on social media to capture people’s attention.
He hopes that his photos can compel Malaysians to be more responsible by illustrating how improper disposal of used face masks can turn our streets into eyesores and put others at risk.
On Instagram, Goh also called out those showing “selfish behaviour” and urged people not to throw their used masks onto the streets or out of their car windows.
Concern is growing over environmental pollution caused by improper disposal of PPE in Malaysia, especially now that face masks have become mandatory in crowded public areas and onboard public transport.
Landasan Lumayan managing director Syaiful Azmen Nordin told Malay Mail in April that new types of waste such as face masks, hand sanitiser bottles, and gloves were being found in the Klang River.
Syaiful, who oversees cleaning and rehabilitation operations along the river, warned that face masks that are littered on the ground can get washed into the drains during rainy weather and end up choking our rivers.