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Montrealer who picked up 50 thousand masks calls for better way

Jody Aveline, whose work takes him around the city on his bike, has been stopping to pick up every mask he sees. (Submitted by Jody Aveline - image credit)

Jody Aveline, whose work takes him around the city on his bike, has been stopping to pick up every mask he sees. (Submitted by Jody Aveline – image credit)

Submitted by Jody Aveline

Submitted by Jody Aveline

In puddles, in alleys, scattered across the street — it’s hard to look at the ground in Montreal and not eventually see a disposable mask. Jody Aveline decided to do something about it.

A year ago, Aveline decided to stop and pick up every disposable mask he saw.

Now, he’s collected over 50,000 of them.

“Actually, the number feels small,” Aveline told CBC News.

Aveline started collecting masks last year while riding around the city on his bike. Every day he’d count the number he’d picked up and put it into a spreadsheet.

When he thinks of all the trash he’s seen, he said it feels like much more than 50,000 — and he finds it hard to celebrate the milestone.

“It was kind of sad, you know? I remember when I started, I remember [hitting] 10,000. I thought that was like a crazy number,” he said. “Now I’m five times that amount.”

Aveline says that, on average, he picks up about 140 masks a day — though his record is upward of 400. But looking at the numbers, Aveline was disappointed to realize that is now collecting more masks now than he did early on in the pandemic.

Submitted by Jody Aveline

Submitted by Jody Aveline

“People have become complacent,” he theorized. “They’re just chucking their masks more and more. And then on top of that, you have the schools … when I go by a school zone, they’re everywhere.”

It’s not just masks, either: Aveline said he’s also finding more gloves and shoe coverings than before.

While he used to take all the masks apart, to make sure they were disposed of properly, he said there are simply too many to handle now. But he still makes sure to cut the elastics, to make sure animals won’t get caught in the masks.

Aveline says he’s had to chase down animals to keep them from getting tangled.

“At the Douglas Hospital, there’s a huge ground where there’s fields and whatnot and the geese are [often] there,” he said. “I would literally have to run after the geese to get them away from these masks!”

Aveline says he hopes his initiative gets people to be more careful when it comes to disposable masks, even if it’s just to be more careful about dropping them accidentally.

“Please be responsible,” he pleaded. “You don’t lose your car keys. You don’t lose your wallet. You don’t lose your mobile phone five times a day.”

“So why are you losing your masks?”

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