Masks, Gloves, and other PPE Littering Beaches
Since the pandemic began, there have been reports about increased waste like used masks and gloves littering store parking lots, sidewalks, parks, and other public spaces. It has even been reported that these items, along with other personal protective equipment (PPE), have been found at beaches. The European Cleaning Journal reports that volunteers for this year’s Great British Beach Clean were asked to record the number of PPE they came across on the beach.
The 27th Annual Great British Beach Clean, organized by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), took place last month. Volunteers were asked to adopt a beach and organize their own beach cleanups with a small group of friends and family in line with government guidance. Volunteers recorded the number of masks, gloves, and other PPE items found at the beach they cleaned to obtain a clearer picture of the volume of plastic has been discarded during the coronavirus pandemic and the impact it has had on the environment.
Face masks and plastic gloves, along with other PPE, can be hazards for fish and other marine life as they can mistake it for food or get trapped in the elastic straps.
The results of this year’s cleanup will be released later this fall. The information collected through volunteer surveys from previous beach cleanups have played a key role in reducing plastic waste through bans on plastic straws, stirrers, cotton buds, and microbeads in shower gels and toothpaste, according to the MCS.