THE blight of used face masks littering the district has sparked a campaign by a WI group to persuade people to be more responsible.

Gillian Law, president of Sutton-in-Craven Women’s Institute said she was echoed by fellow members and in the wider community in her plea to people wearing disposable face coverings to discard of them sensibly and safely, adding that their littering was ‘as bad as dog fouling’.

Mrs Law first raised this issue when she noticed face masks dropped as litter near bus stops. It was soon after the wearing of face masks on buses became the law. She initially raised this issue with members of Sutton in Craven Women’s Institute via weekly newsletters.

She said: “Here at Sutton-in-Craven we have been aware of this problem since the wearing of masks on buses became mandatory. This has been increasing as shops were also included. Working with Sutton-in-Craven Parish Council we have endeavoured to put out messages asking people to dispose of their masks responsibly at home. The parish council has displayed notices at all bus stops in the area whilst we at Sutton-in-Craven WI have put notices in local shops displaying the same message.

“In areas of high volume traffic, ie. the Co-op car park, this is most evident. Somebody has to retrieve these masks; a most unpleasant task.

“It should be as socially unacceptable as dog fouling.

“I take this opportunity to reiterate our message - ‘Please take your mask home and dispose of it responsibly and save lives’.

Mrs Law said the problem was far and wide and extended to grass verges miles from the nearest village. The problem also extended to discarded disposable gloves.

“This is dropping litter at it’s worst. Not only are the masks and gloves and eyesore, they are also a potential health hazard.”

Sutton WI secretary Shirley Davids added: “On a recent walks in the lanes around Sutton, I observed an average of one mask on every mile of grass verge on country roads. Where did these come from? Many must have been discarded, along with sandwich wrappings and plastic bottles, from cars. As they are not biodegradable, they will remain to pollute our countryside for a long time to come.”

The WI is famed for its non-political campaigns to better the country. Among them, ironically, was the 1954 Keep Britain Tidy campaign which was one of the Women’s Institutes most significant initiatives and still relevant today.

This resolution called for a campaign to ‘preserve the countryside against desecration by litter,’.It and subsequently led to the formation of the Keep Britain Tidy group and the 1958 Litter Act. The WI was thanked for the role it played in this.