‘Outraged together’: Artist dons PPE to collect discarded face masks

First it was one on the nature strip, then another fluttering in a tree and one more in a waterway. Suddenly, Letitia Crispin was seeing single-use face masks littered everywhere in her community.

The Oakleigh East performance artist will dress in full PPE this weekend to collect discarded face masks, drawing attention to the rise of COVID-19 waste on our streets.

Performance artist Letitia Crispin will don full PPE this weekend to draw attention to COVID waste.Credit:Paul Jeffers

The pandemic has seen a huge return to single-use items and Ms Crispin said she was disappointed to see "so much littering” and the exponential growth of non-recyclables.

Her project aims to give us all a reminder of sustainability.

“I want to critique what we are doing as a society and a community, but do it in a way that is productive and enables a conversation rather than judgment,” she said.

“I want to create community by being outraged together.”

The performance – which is split into three stages and doubles as a university assignment – is designed to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of single-use items.

Ms Crispin will teach people how to create their own masks, dispose of single-use masks correctly, and finally, she'll give away donated reusable masks.

The project’s Instagram page @_createcommunity invites the public to raise awareness by submitting images of littered masks in their area, with some submissions even coming from the UK.

A report in the Environmental Science & Technology Journal in June said about 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves had been used globally each month since COVID-19 started to spread.

The artist collects discarded masks.Credit:Paul Jeffers

City of Monash councillor Josh Fergeus said all levels of government were playing catch-up with COVID waste management.

“The single use masks are obviously really necessary for keeping people safe, but they’re creating a range of challenges in maintaining amenity and in keeping our waste levels to a minimum,” Cr Fergeus said.

“It’s certainly a really obvious and visible reminder of all the waste we’re creating.”

One Melbourne council has erected signs in July to encourage the correct disposal of masks and gloves.

New signs in the City of Glen Eira.Credit:Melissa Singer

Glen Eira City Council chief executive Rebecca McKenzie said the signs were placed in major supermarket car parks in response to the increased number of people shopping while wearing protective gear.

“The responsible disposal of PPE protects our community and protects our street cleaning and shopping centre care crews,” she said.

Single-use masks should be disposed of in rubbish bins, not recycling. Sustainability Victoria said ear loops should be cut before disposal and masks should be placed in a sealed bag if users have had or were suspected of having coronavirus.

Ms Crispin’s performance takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 26 and 27.

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