ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF DISPOSABLE FACE MASKS
In accordance with government advice, millions of people globally have started to wear face masks and face coverings as a preventative measure against COVID-19. Although this does contribute to slowing down the spread of the virus, the exponential use of disposable masks is having a profound effect on the environment that seems to have been overlooked.
Many conservationists are warning that a surge in single-use face masks is simply “adding to the glut of plastic pollution in the oceans”, and even causing substantial harm to marine life according to an article in the Independent.
Click the following link to read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/coronavirus-masks-gloves-oceans-pollution-waste-a9469471.html.
The International Union For Conservation of Nature found that there is at least 8 million tons of plastic added to oceans every year, which makes up 80% of marine debris. This ends up impacting humans more than we could have imagined, with fish and seabirds mistaking this debris for food, and this plastic enters the food chain.
Ms Algarra founded Clean This Beach Up in Miami just before the pandemic hit, and told the Independent, “Plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces until micro-plastic is everywhere. It’s toxic and it’s in what we’re eating and drinking”.
This threat is made very real, especially when many face masks and coverings are made using non-recyclable and non-biodegradable materials, often taking decades to break down, and even longer once they are in water. Once they start to break down into tiny pieces in the ocean, it’s almost impossible to undo what has been done and take it all back.
Many photos have been emerging of face masks littering the streets, and more shockingly the usually unspoilt beaches around the world.
Many countries around the world have made it mandatory to wear face masks when leaving the house, with some imposing heavy fines of up to $55,000 on those that do not follow the strict guidelines.
For more information on which countries have imposed new rules and guidelines, click the following link https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/countries-wearing-face-masks-compulsory-200423094510867.html.
However, it seems that the UK is behind with its decision making on face masks, and it is only advised that we wear a face covering when in enclosed public spaces, not mandatory.
Click here to see the latest government advice on face coverings https://www.gov.uk/government/news/public-advised-to-cover-faces-in-enclosed-spaces.
For those that need to use disposable PPE that has been provided for work, it’s very important that you are mindful about how you and those you work with dispose of it, and make sure that you are doing all that you can to stop face masks and other plastic PPE from littering the streets and even reaching the oceans.