The world was
rejoicing when satellite data showed air pollution plummeting in most countries
due to lockdowns. However, the environment now is suffering from a different
kind of pollution, Face Masks.
Millions of face masks are being used daily in hopes of warding off the coronavirus. But where are these facemask’s final destinations?
A picture recently surfaced the internet with a man holding facemasks he found on a beach in Hong Kong.
Everyone is using single-use facemasks daily to ward of this virus, consequently causing a mass shortage of masks and leaving an environmental trail.
A huge number of these masks are not being discarded correctly. “We only have had masks for the last six to eight weeks, in a massive volume, we are now seeing the effect on the environment,” Gary Stokes, founder of the environmental group Oceans Asia, told the Daily Mail.
These masks, in addition to other plastics, are ending up in the countryside and the sea. They are washing up on beaches and endangering marine life. Additionally, incorrectly disposed facemasks can lead to endangering others.
This virus survives on surfaces for several days, according to WHO. Incorrect disposal poses a risk to others who come in contact with these items, most importantly waste collectors.
“As the virus
can live on surfaces for a number of days, discarded masks may become a
potential source of infection, “Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, told Manila
“People think they’re protecting themselves but it’s not just about protecting yourselves, you need to protect everybody and by not throwing away the mask properly, it’s very selfish,” Tracey Read, founder of the group Plastic Free Seas in Hong Kong stated.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends removing face masks by the straps, not touching the front, and placing them in a closed bin.
Consequently, authorities need to spread public awareness in their countries on how to dispose of face masks in order to protect public health and the environment.
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