Coronavirus face masks could have a devastating effect on the environment. Discarded single-use face masks used to stop the spread of coronavirus could be causing significant harm to the environment.
Environmental groups found masses of surgical masks washing up on the shoreline.
Over time it has seen the odd mask here and now, however this time they were all along the high tide line and foreshore with new arrivals coming in on the current. When you suddenly have a population of millions people wearing one to two masks per day the amount of trash generated is going to be substantial.
A mask that is ingested by a local turtle, pink dolphin or finless porpoise, for example, could easily become stuck in the digestive system of this animal, thereby killing it.
Most of these masks contain or are made of polypropylene, which does not break down quickly. Marine plastic pollution is a serious problem. It is estimated that every year, over eight million tons of plastic enter our oceans. This plastic does not disappear but rather slowly breaks down into micro-plastic, which enters food chains, with devastating effect.
Estimates suggest that more than 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and over a million sea birds are killed by marine plastic annually. Marine plastic adsorbs toxins, which results in it poisoning animals that accidentally ingest it.
People should consult with their local authorities to learn about the proper ways to dispose of surgical masks correctly and notes the surge in mask-based rubbish highlights “serious weaknesses in waste management and public education”.