With people across the world are being encouraged to wear PPE to protect themselves from the lethal virus, one thing that doesn’t seem to have been relayed is how to properly dispose of it.
Recently, latex gloves and disposable masks have started to litter the streets, and now the single-use PPE is getting into our oceans.
At one point this year, we seem to have been making the right steps to take care of the ocean pollution, with optimistic scientists predicting that they could be restored by 2050, something that won’t probably happen if disposable PPE keeps being thrown this way.
Non-profit organization Opération Mer Propre often litter-pick along the Côte d’Azur and raised concerns after coming across several masks.
Opération Mer Propre posted some photos on their Facebook page last month (translated to English):
“Operation COVID 19 this morning… this is it the first disposable masks arrived in the Mediterranean…!
Unfortunately, it was expected to see the number of masks and gloves thrown directly into the gutters… more than ever we will have to take action against all these incivilities, from the can to the mask because whoever throws his can will also throw his mask…! It’s just the beginning and if nothing changes it will become a real ecological disaster and maybe even health…!”
Laurent Lambord of Opération Mer Propre expressed his concerns on Facebook as well. He said: “Knowing that more than 2 billion disposable masks have been ordered, soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the waters of the Mediterranean.”
According to a Treehugger report, masks have an estimated life span of 450 years in the natural environment, making them ‘veritable ecological time bombs’.
Apart from the Mediterranean, many masks have also been found on the beaches of Asia.
Gary Stokes of OceansAsia explained in The Guardian that he found around 70 masks on a beach that was 100m long.
“Ever since society started wearing masks, the cause and effects are being seen on the beaches,” Stokes said. “It’s no better, no worse [than other forms of plastic pollution], just another item we’re leaving as a legacy to the next generation.”
While the masks may have short-term health benefits for people protecting themselves from coronavirus, latex gloves and PPE masks making its way into the ocean are bound to have long-term damaging effects on the environment.