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  • Writer's pictureJsl Editorial Team

New forms of Waste: face masks a growing pollution problem.

Already, we have different types of wastes that gain entry into our environmental media (especially, land and water). Then, COVID 19 happened and introduced a new source of waste from the use of PPE’s.

Bright blue gloves, transparent face shields and crumpled colourful masks litter the streets, shopping carts, parking lots, beaches, market places, highways and green spaces. It’s left to cleaners and grocery store staff, those essential but underpaid frontline employees, to pick them up.

Those not picked up can be caught by a gust of wind or washed down drains, ending up in the ocean and waterways.

Not only is there a potential health risk of dropping used masks and gloves during the pandemic but many contain materials that do not recycle and are not biodegradable. Surgical masks are made using non-woven fabrics including plastics like polypropylene.

Plastic pollution is already a huge problem which prompted the theme for the 2018 World Environment Day (WED): ‘Beat plastic pollution’. According to the World Environment Day website, “Every year, up to 13 million tons of plastic leak into our oceans, where it smothers coral reefs and threatens vulnerable marine wildlife. The plastics that enter into the ocean can make its way around the world four times in a year before disintegrating into microplastics. Ms Algarra founder of CLEAN THIS BEACH UP told The Independent that “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. “There’s no way to clean up micro-plastics. Once trash makes it into the ocean and breaks into smaller pieces, it’s almost impossible to take it back."

Plastics also attracts other pollutants, including dioxins, metals and pesticides.

The bright colours of latex gloves can be mistaken as food by seabirds, turtles and other marine animals putting them at risk of severe injuries and death.

“The way I see these masks in the environment is just another addition to the ever-growing marine debris crisis our oceans are facing. No better, no worse, just shouldn’t be there in the first place. I’m waiting to hear of the first necropsy that finds masks inside a dead marine animal. It’s not a question of if, but when.” Gary Stokes told The Independent.

Not being aware of the consequences of plastics is why most people are careless with littering plastics which finds its way into harming the ecosystem and us in effect.

I will like to have you send in pictures of face masks and other COVID 19 PPE’s litter anywhere you find it. Note: please do not pick up the litter except you feel its safe and you have Personal protective Items. We’ll call it: #facemask litter challenge.

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