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Villeray friends cleaning up neighbourhood, one face mask at a time

During their daily pandemic walks, two Villeray residents began to notice how many face masks they would see discarded in the Montreal borough, so they decided to take action.

“When we’re walking we carry our little sticks and we pick everything we see up,” said founder of the grassroots movement Operation Mask Militia, Elizabeth Barbosa.

Elizabeth Barbosa and her friend Alcina Lopes started collecting masks on December 30. Since then, the pair estimates they have collected close to 4,000 masks and well over 10,000 steps.

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“It’s keeping us active and making us feel like we are empowered to do something concrete and an action that is resulting in something good,” Barbosa said.

The pair tries to go out with their garbage tongs 3-4 times a week for a good 2-3 hours, just in their own neighbourhood. They frequent Villeray street, Jarry Park, and around the Jean Talon hospital.

When speaking to Global News, Barbosa called the amount of masks discarded on the ground startling and sad.

“I don’t understand the logic, it shouldn’t be this way even outside hospitals. I’m flabbergasted to see the amount of masks outside the hospitals,” she said.

Shocked by how many face masks they continue to pick up, Lopes encourages other friends or families to make a difference in their own neighbourhood.

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“If everybody does their own little corner, we won’t be seeing this much pollution, this much mask garbage around.”

The pair discards the collected coverings in the trash afterwards, which they admit bothers them. The ladies said going forwards, they are going to try to recycle the masks with local company GoZero Recycle.

The friends’ plan is to continue as long as masks need to be cleaned up off city streets.

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