Ontario has already warned against littering personal protective equipment, and now one town is coming down hard on dumpers. In an Oakville littering bylaw enacted last week, the GTA town announced it will now be fining people $300 if they are caught dumping face masks or disposable gloves on the streets. That is on top of the town's standard minimum fine of $100.

For weeks now, Toronto has seen vital PPE dumped all over the city by residents.

Mayor John Tory has urged residents to think more carefully about how they dispose of used supplies, but it seems complaints are still falling on deaf ears in some places.

And, on April 12, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton announced a new bylaw specifically aimed at clamping down on the unsanitary trend.

"We can all agree that face masks and gloves belong in garbage cans, not littered in our town, and now anyone caught not properly disposing of PPE can be fined under the by-law in accordance with the Emergency Management Act," Burton said in a town statement.

The bylaw's official wording notes that an officer who finds or "has reasonable cause to believe" an individual has violated the rule can fine that person $300 either on sight or at a later time.

Officially enacted last Thursday, April 9, the bylaw says it will remain in force "for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency." 

As with most bylaws and fines, repeated offences can drastically increase a person's punishment.

While other GTA and southern Ontario municipalities have not introduced similar specific fines for PPE dumping, other towns and cities have been reiterating their anti-littering stance in the time of COVID-19.

As well as Mayors Tory and Burton, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie tweeted late last week to warn residents that bylaw officers are patrolling.

Still, though, Ontarians continue to dump both PPE and other garbage illegally.

It's an alarming trait given how communicable COVID-19 has proven to be as a disease, and given the repeated reports of a dire shortage of PPE on the frontlines for healthcare workers.

In fact, supply is so stretched that the public is pitching in. Various groups including a collaboration of Ontario students have provided PPE supplies to medical workers.

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