Unless you've been living in a cave (or basement) you've had to notice all the masks lying around parking lots, sidewalks and outside of stores lately.

It's nothing new really. Since the mandates in Washington and other more restrictive states went into effect, cleanup crews and sanitation workers have had to spend extra resources cleaning them up.

Whether it's younger kids who accidentally drop theirs, or adults who just peel and toss after leaving a store (because they forgot theirs at home), the debris is piling up.

The recent winds this week in the Tri-Cities have blown a lot of them away, but the issue is still there. In fact last April the New York Post did a story about how piles of masks and peel off gloves were starting to create health hazards in New York City.

The discarded PPE became so bad city officials reminded people they could be fined up to $5,000 if seen tossing them away; even if it's their first offense.

Here in the Mid Columbia, we noticed earlier this week during a trip to a grocery store there were 5 temporary and 2 cloth ones seen on our way in; and that was just our little path through the parking lot. The cloth one is pictured.

Between Thursday and Friday (this writing) we reached out to 3 of the larger regional grocery retailers in the area and asked if they'd had to expend extra resources just to clean these up. However, in all 3 cases, we were referred to corporate or regional headquarters. So far, nobody has returned our calls of emails. Not surprising...it's considered a hot button issue and these days anything to do with masks is a corporate dealt with issue.  We have however, noticed when workers are sweeping-cleaning around the entrances, their big dustpans are often full of masks.

But it's pretty obvious this consequence of the mask mandate was something officials didn't count on. Of course, people should not litter.  But human nature has to be considered here. No matter how much we tell people to clean up after themselves, there are those who won't, and this mandate as just given them another item to toss to the curb.

Once the winds die down, expect to see more than tumbleweeds piled up against chain link and other fences in our region, probably a lot of sky blue masks--and a few cloth ones as well.

Now watch--after we run this story, somebody will contact us and say "hey that's mine! I dropped it in the parking lot at _____________!"