BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Nicole De Santis is used to filling garbage bags with bottles, cups and cigarette butts as a volunteer.
But recently this work has become more risky and more frustrating.
That’s because she’s now picking up litter that could potentially be contaminated with the coronavirus.
“There’s countless amounts of gloves and masks in this neighborhood," De Santis said.
Instead of properly disposing of PPE, many are just tossing it on the ground - without any regard for the fact that somebody is going to have to pick up after them. And it’s happening across the five boroughs - gloves, masks, piling up on sidewalks and along the city’s curbs.
“We want to keep our streets litter free, we want to reduce pollution, we want to protect our neighbors. It’s important to me, like we live here and I care about the place where I live," De Santis said.
Cleaning up others’ trash isn’t a new task for the climate activist. She’s the executive director of the “Clean Bushwick Initiative,” organizing bi-weekly street clean ups in the area.
With social distancing guidelines in place, group clean ups haven’t been possible over the last few months, making this even more difficult for her to remove the overwhelming amount of trash that has piled up.
So she takes to social media to encourage others to help out.
“As a community we can be distanced but still work together to create change," De Santis said.
Change is why De Santis is dedicated to creating a cleaner environment for the whole community. Even when others don’t.
“I don't think people make the connection between litter on the streets and how that affects us on a much greater scale in terms of air quality, in terms of how litter gets into the waterways," De Santis said.
She’s hopeful her message will be heard and people will begin to think twice before tossing junk to the curb.
“It’s a big deal to me to protect the environment for future generations, for our kids, we should all be super invested in this," De Santis said.
So, for protecting the city from discarded personal protective equipment, Nicole De Santis is our New Yorker of the week.