COVID-19 Masks Are New Threat to Pollution in Oceans and Beaches


When the massive amount of plastic was already floating around and polluting the Pacific Ocean, there is another problem that arises. There is now another source of pollution that has become a threat to the oceans- sanitary gloves and face masks. The COVID-19 situation has welcomed face masks floating on water resembling jellyfish, and the rubber gloves coasting up around the shores.

All this is summing up to result in a massive plastic waste crisis in the world. As a part of a cleaning project, divers from Operation Mer Propre, a French non-profit organization have started collecting waste deposited under the Mediterranean Sea. What they have found after hours of the search were dozens of masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer bottles. These were all lying below the waves of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Apart from these, there is a common litter such as aluminum cans, and disposable cups.

A small mistake can lead to massive damage

The litter consisting of protective equipment is quite small in the Mediterranean Ocean. However, the pollution amount due to these signal towards a massive trend. For example, the face masks feel like soft cotton when you touch them. However, the masks are made out of material that is non-biodegradable, for example, polypropylene. Therefore, when items such as these are thrown away randomly, they end up depositing below the waves of bigger water bodies. As a result, there is a massive amount of pollution that is difficult to get rid of. Plus, the facemasks have a lifespan of more than 450 years, and therefore pose as ecological timebombs. It is because of the environmental consequences from these masks last for longer than you can imagine.

A popular news channel recently reported that 80% cause of water pollution is associated with land activities. Out of this, half is surely a result of plastics that are disposable after a single-use. According to an environmental non-profit organization, City to Sea, we must discourage the worsening of the situation. It is a massive step because curtailing the use of plastic bags, and disposable plastics is on the cards for a long time.

Pollution is continuously rising

Since the time that the Centers for Disease Control has issued orders for the reopening of all offices, pollution is on the rise. The main reason is again the usage of plastic coffee cups and snacks wrappers. To curtail this habit, the organization is now encouraging individually packed food that does not require the use of disposable plastic. Joffrey Peltier of Operation Mer Propre states that nothing can stop pollution from increasing if proper steps are not taken. The worst example of the situation is visible on the beaches of Hong Kong. The pictures of faces masks piling on the beaches are doing the rounds on the internet already. There is a sure-shot threat approaching the wildlife and marine habitats.

The founder of the environmental group Oceans Asia, Gary Stokes says that people are using masks only for the past two months. However, pollution is increasing in massive volumes. The effects on the environment are easily visible, and the situation is very alarming. For example, environmental workers found about 70 facemasks on the sparsely populated Soko islands of Hong Kong. When they went back after a week, they found 30 more masks in the small beach already.

Small efforts can go a long way

Unfortunately, France has proposed the requirement of around 2 billion disposable facemasks. In this context, Laurent Lombard of Operation Mer Propre points out that it is a terrible decision keeping in mind all the environmental effects. He says that there will soon come a time when the Mediterranean Sea will have more facemasks in comparison to the number of jellyfish. Along with a post regarding this on social media, he posted a tragic video. You can see how the algae are dying due to the entanglement of plastic masks. Plus, there are pictures of soiled gloves right at the bottom of the sea as well.

Operation Mer Propre is urging people to come out and join hands in the movement against pollution. They are encouraging people to shift to reusable masks and put up pictures wearing those. The workers are also telling people to ditch latex gloves and turn to wash hands more frequently. According to the chief of the organization, we should all adapt to alternatives, because plastic is not the solution to COVID-19.


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