KITCHENER -- Littering is already a big problem for the environment, but during a pandemic it can become a health and safety issue as well.

Residents have reported finding an increase in personal protective equipment – like gloves and masks – on the ground around Waterloo Region.

Waterloo resident Kevin Burt takes it upon himself to clean up the park near his home.

"It's going to take someone to do it, who is going to get paid to do it, which is going to cost us tax dollars," he said. "This is the only way it was going to get done, is if I did it myself."

Shayne Turner, the director of Waterloo Municipal Enforcement Services, says that litter clean up responsibilities ultimately fall onto the property owners.

"Use proper solutions [for picking up PPE litter] like a pair of tongs or litter pickers," he said. "Certainly wear gloves, a mask, and don't let it come in contact with your bare skin."

Some businesses will call contractors like Kitchener's Clintar Landscape Management for cleanup.

"People make the decision to protect themselves, to not touch surfaces, and cover themselves," said owner Jim Maloney. "It's kind of baffling that they're going to drop this stuff in the middle of a parking lot.

"[The PPE litter] is unique for our crews because it's something they have to realize and be aware of."

For other businesses like grocery stores, the cleanup responsibilities can fall on the employees.

"That's not what they're there to do," said Tim Deelstra, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. "They're there to serve the public, to make sure food is provided to them.

"These are items that people who have potentially been infected with COVID-19 might have had on them."

Those caught littering can face a fine of up to $450.