BEVERLY — Supermarket chains have been forced to put up signs and have put trash bins in their parking lots in hopes of curbing one side effect of the coronavirus pandemic: Shoppers discarding used gloves and masks on the ground. 

"Think of the grocery store attendants who are already working so hard to keep us safe by sanitizing carts and providing an essential service that puts themselves at risk," said Beverly City Councilor Estelle Rand, who added that employees are already taking on enough risk of exposure without having to now clean up gloves and masks. 

Hundreds of photos have appeared on social media during the past two weeks lamenting — and even shaming — the discourtesy of shoppers, who, presumably, don't want to carry potentially contaminated gloves or masks home with them.

Rand said some of those people may have dropped gloves by accident and suggested that people should focus on solving the problem, not laying blame.

"Blame will not help clean up the litter, it never does," she said. 

Patti Amaral of the Gloucester Clean City Initiative said she thinks education is key. 

"We need to stop littering, period," said Amaral. "It's out of control." 

She said she's been finding used gloves in the litter she picks up for years, and imagines that the problem will be even worse when volunteers get back out to do community cleanups. 

With limited information as to how long the virus lasts on various materials, many are concerned that the gloves and masks could be a source of spreading coronavirus to the workers who clean them up or even other shoppers who accidentally come into contact with them. 

At Shaw's and Star Market stores, workers have set up collection bins for gloves, masks and other trash, said Teresa Edington, a spokeswoman for the chain. That's on top of daily enhanced cleanings, she said. 

Stop and Shop stores have also increased their cleaning schedule and installed trash bins at each shopping cart corral in their parking lots. 

"We also posted signage that politely asks customers to please dispose of disinfecting wipes, gloves and other trash properly for everyone’s health and safety," said Maria Fruci, a spokeswoman for Stop and Shop.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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