SURGICAL MASKS, COVID WASTE POLLUTING OCEANS
Environmentalists have warned that a global increase in use of single-use masks, latex gloves and other protective gear for use against the novel coronavirus could exacerbate marine pollution, Kyodo news agency reported late on July 23, 2020.
OceansAsia, a grassroots environmental organization based in Hong Kong, reported earlier in the month that disposable masks were found floating underwater and on seabeds, caught among ghost nets and other debris.
"A single face mask could take hundreds of years to break down into microplastic, the kind of microplastic is now being found in fish destined for human consumption, sea salt and even sea spray," the organization said, recommending that people switch to reusable masks where possible. Japanese coasts and waters have also witnessed an apparent increase in the number of disposable masks recently, said Masahiro Takemoto, a professional diver and environmentalist.
On the other side of the world, medical waste has been adding to the glut of pollution washing up on the shores of Turkey and Europe. "Knowing that more than 2 billion disposable masks have been ordered (in France), soon there may be more masks than jellyfish in Mediterranean waters," Laurent Lombard of Operation Mer Propre, a French environmental group, said in a Facebook post dated May 23. Calling for citizens and governments to take action to protect the environment, the group, whose activities include cleaning up the Cote d'Azur, warned, "It's only the beginning and if nothing changes it will become a real ecological disaster."