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Chicago Company iPromo Launches A Mission To Get People To Clean Up PPE Litter

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There's no doubt you've seen masks and gloves littered in the streets across the city, and according to researchers, it is happening around the world.

Now, one Chicago-based company is launching an effort to clean it up. On Tuesday morning, CBS 2's Tim McNicholas showed us the mission of iPromo.

On one two-block walk through the West Loop, there were two masks, a glove, and a crushed bottle of hand sanitizer spotted lying in the street.

It's not surprising to Leo Friedman, chief executive officer of iPromo.

"It's not actually," he said. "It's a lighter day in the neighborhood in terms of PPE litter."

iPromo used to sell corporate gifts and promotional products like airpods, coolers, hats, and water bottles branded with companies' logos. But they pivoted back in the spring to selling masks and sanitizer.

And that is the very same kind of stuff he is now seeing on the street.

"Unless there's something done about it - whether it's legislatively or as a community – we're going to continue to see this propagate all over the city," Friedman said.

There is a form on iPromo's website to submit pictures of PPE litter you've cleaned up. For every five items you submit, iPromo will donate a mask to a charity in need.

They hope to donate at least 250,000.

"We're hoping this will inspire copycats, or some sort of action from communities, to clean up our streets," Friedman said.

A professor with Louisiana State University is tracking PPE litter across the world. Back in April, Chicago residents sent him what they saw on a few blocks near Pulaski Road and Diversey Avenue.

Triangles, circles, and squares were superimposed over an image of the litter, with each shape representing a different kind of PPE.

We also found masks and wipes throughout a store parking lot Monday in Loan Square.

So how does Chicago stack up against other cities?

"I would say a little worse than some and not as bad as others," said professor Mark Benfield. "Worst place we've seen in the country has been Brooklyn in New York City."

Benfield said it is a global issue. He is also finding troubling results from a city in Turkey.

He said at least one city in southern China has reduced PPE waste by having dedicated trash bins for PPE around town.

"I think if you point it out to them have signage and waste bins that are easy and convenient, it'll remind people not to throw the stuff away," Benfield said.

Benfield said you should carry a plastic bag with you so you can keep your disposal mask or wipes in there until you find a garbage can.

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