We are currently battling a pandemic, and are doing everything we can to keep ourselves, loved ones, key workers and our communities safe. One of those safety measures is PPE (personal protective equipment), such as disposable masks and plastic gloves. But what is happening to these products after they have been used? It turns out that what we are using to keep ourselves safe, is in fact putting our wildlife at danger.
How much PPE are we using every month?
Globally we are using 129 billion face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves every month, according to estimates, with divers and observers taking note of more and more of discarded PPE in our oceans, causing harm to wildlife and our ecosystems. It would only take the ingestion of one mask, or one glove, to kill a whale.
From Turkey to Hong Kong, single-use plastic gloves, masks and aprons have washed up on shores across the world since the Coronavirus pandemic began. At the start of the pandemic our social media feed were filled with wholesome stories about animals and wildlife thriving with the absence of humans and pollution (remember the images of the monkeys in New Delhi?). However, it seems that our plastic-fantastic approach to PPE is starting to catch up with us and has led to a surge in oceanic pollution.
So, what can we all do to help?
The main issue is people not disposing of their PPE and single-use plastic correctly, which as well as harming the environment, is also important in reducing the spread of the infection. The vast majority of PPE is non-biodegradable as they contain micro-plastics, and are best disposed of in a trash bin to ensure that they don’t end up causing harm to wildlife As soon as you remove the PPE they should be disposed of as quickly as possible. Always ensure that wipes of any kind are disposed of in the trash too. Some may label themselves as flushable, however they can cause clogging and often do not decay for years due to the microfibres of the wipes.
There are also so many super cute re-usable face coverings which can be washed between uses. These reduce the amount of single use plastic that we are consuming, and let’s be honest – they look so cute!