• Face masks are an ecological timebomb

  • Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, people have been littering personal protective equipment (PPE), especially face masks and gloves (1). A new report by Joana C. Prata et al., published in Environmental Science & Technology journal estimates that every month, 129 billion face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves are being disposed of (2).

    Doug Cress, Vice President of Conservation for ocean protection organization Ocean Conservancy (3), spoke about the new data estimates in a video interview with the BBC (4).

    “It’s important to understand we had a tremendously grave crisis before the pandemic even started in terms of plastic waste in the ocean. And now you can take the global pandemic. At the current rate, we’re putting a 129 billion — I’m saying billion — face masks into the environment every single month. [And] 65 billion plastic gloves into the environment every single month. A significant portion of those would be disposed of improperly and wind up in the ocean.”

    “The glove or the mask that you take off and you casually disregard because you think it was safe for that day could easily be the glove or the mask that kills a whale,” Cress added.

    French polititian Éric Pauget stated:

    “With a lifespan of 450 years, these masks are an ecological timebomb given their lasting environmental consequences for our planet,” he wrote last month in a letter to Emmanuel Macron, calling on the French president to do more to address the environmental consequences of disposable masks.” (5), (6).

    1. https://www.greenmatters.com/p/coronavirus-gloves-masks-littering
    2. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.0c0217
    3. https://oceanconservancy.org/
    4. https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-53287940
    5. https://ericpauget.fr/lettre-a-emmanuel-macron/
    6. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/08/more-masks-than-jellyfish-coronavirus-waste-ends-up-in-ocean