- Hawaii-based marine conservation organization OceansAsia reported that an estimated 1.5 billion face masks will enter the ocean this year.
- Single-use masks are adding to our global plastic pollution problem.
Wearing face masks has become the new normal as we deal with a global pandemic, with many establishments making it mandatory as a safety precaution against Covid-19. The sad news here, of course, is that many of these wastes are ending up on our ocean floors.
According to marine conservation organization OceansAsia, around 52 billion masks have been manufactured globally this year and an estimated 1.5 billion of those will enter our ocean. Unfortunately, that’s not even our only problem.
In a report entitled “Masks on the Beach: The Impact of COVID-19 on Marine Plastic Pollution,” OceansAsia Director of Research and report lead author Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff said:
“The 1.56 billion face masks that will likely enter our oceans in 2020 are just the tip of the iceberg. The 4,680 to 6,240 metric tonnes of face masks are just a small fraction of the estimated 8 to 12 million metric tonnes of plastic that enter our oceans each year.”
Face masks will need up to 450 years to break down so we’ll have them around for a long time – which is, of course, a bad thing for marine life.
OceansAsia Director of Operations Gary Stokes added:
“Marine plastic pollution is devastating our oceans. Plastic pollution kills an estimated 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, over a million seabirds, and even greater numbers of fish, invertebrates and other animals each year. It also negatively impacts fisheries and the tourism industry, and costs the global economy an estimated $13 billion USD per year.”
“It is critical that we work to reduce our use of single-use plastics, and we all have a role to play,” Bondaroof further pointed out. “There are reusable and sustainable options for almost every single single-use plastic item. Please wear a reusable mask, unless absolutely necessary, and be sure to dispose of all masks responsibly.”
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