43-year-old policeman S Subhash Srinivasan, hailing from Tamil Nadu's Ramanathapuram, decided to go beyond the call of-duty and began working towards curbing the mask-menace amid the on-going COVID-19 outbreak.
The head constable at the Police In-service Training Centre, Srinivasan has reportedly collected and incinerated about 20,000 masks till now. He has been actively engaged in the process of collection and proper disposal of soiled facemasks strewn on the streets of the town since May.
"It was in May that I took up the disposal of used masks, after noticing a cow chewing on one, mistaking it for fodder, on the roadside. Similarly, I witnessed a dog sniffing a soiled mask. Aware of the risks of viral transmission through used masks, I decided to take the issue into my own hands.
The improper disposal of masks can spread the COVID-19 infection to people as well as animals like dogs and goats, that come in contact with humans, as pets or as food," Subash told The New Indian Express.
The task of collecting the facemasks which started as a pastime activity for Srinivasan turned to a serious affair in August after he recovered from the coronavirus infection. The cop shared that the infection had weakened him, adding, that he experienced extreme breathing difficulties.
"When I was infected, I became too frail to even stand. Hit by severe fatigue, I experienced breathing difficulties and loss of taste. Upon recovery, I was determined that, through the best of my efforts, I must prevent as many people as possible from getting infected by the deadly virus," said the cop.
Armed with a tree stick in his gloved hands, Subash sets out for the mask-collection task. After a two-hour-long walk, he incinerates the collected waste in a secluded spot, usually a barren land. Hinting at the surging COVID waste, he stated that he accumulates nearly 200-300 used masks from the roadside. He mentioned that the municipality conservancy workers have been overburdened with the work of segregating these masks that are usually mixed with other waste.
"Watching me collect the masks in the morning, a few conservancy workers made friends with me and started offering me tea," the police officer shared.
Face masks have become an indispensable part of our lives, acting as a wall of resistance against the coronavirus. In India, with the states making the covering of the face with masks a mandatory exercise to check the spread of the virus and those violating the order being forced to pay hefty fines, there has been a surge in the demand for face masks which is also leading to a growing mountain of waste.