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62,000 Pieces Of PPE In Oceans Pose Significant Threat To Marine Ecosystems

by : Mike Williams on : 29 Oct 2020 16:17
62,000 Pieces Of PPE In Oceans Pose Significant Threat To Marine EcosystemsPA

With the threat of the coronavirus pandemic having swept the globe, another very real danger has emerged; thousands of pieces of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have been washing up on the planet’s shores.

Activists and environmentalists are growing increasingly worried about the sheer volume of PPE that’s finding it’s way into our oceans and washing up on beaches across the world, as we collectively fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

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With social-distancing and mask-wearing now commonplace in most public places, people have needed to buy them to prevent the spread of a virus that’s already caused over 1.1 million deaths worldwide.

person wearing face maskPexels

As many of 62,210 individual pieces of PPE, including the common single-use masks, gloves, and anti-bacterial wipes, were recovered in oceans and on the shores in September alone, after a recovery effort was initiated by the International Coastal Cleanup, CNN reports.

The data is an historical moment, as this is the first and only time PPE has been recorded as the sole purpose for a clean-up event.

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Ocean Conservancy, set up three decades ago, confirm this is the first of its kind, and it’s entirely down to people using various forms of protective materials and carelessly discarding them since the start of 2020.

‘We absolutely believe that PPE waste is a significant threat to oceans and marine life,’ said Dr. George Leonard, a chief scientist with Ocean Conservancy.

According to Ocean Conservancy’s official website, their aim is to clean away rubbish from the world’s beaches and shorelines and, in turn, protect the planet’s oceans and its waterways.

Face maskPA
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Almost Half Of 12 Million Pieces Of Trash In Oceans Related To Take-Out Food

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In excess of 60,000 pieces of PPE recovered in a single month is staggering, and an alarming indication that people are irresponsibly disposing of their masks. It’s also indicative that the social messaging – just like informing people of their carbon footprints and the importance of recycling – needs to be much firmer.

Other items that are commonly removed from our waters include a lot of plastic, such as bottles, food wrappers, food containers, bottle caps, straws, and supermarket bags. Cigarette butts are also one of the biggest finds, according to the non-profit company.

In 2019, 122 countries participated in a global clean-up, with an incredible 23,333,816 pounds of rubbish recovered from the collective global effort. That said, this year has seen the number significantly drop to 1.6 million pounds with 76 countries participating.

Woman wearing mask amid coronavirus outbreakPA Images
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The massive drop is clearly down to people having had their entire years put on hold, preventing a majority from going on holiday or venturing to the beach or for days out.

‘Widespread environmental contamination’ has been cited  by the Environmental Science and Technology journal, claiming a staggering 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves are in use, which people are then failing to safely and responsibly dispose of.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

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Topics: Health, Coronavirus, oceans, Pandemic, PPE

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Environmental Science and Technology journal and 1 other
  1. Environmental Science and Technology journal

    COVID-19 Pandemic Repercussions on the Use and Management of Plastics

  2. CNN

    Used masks and gloves are showing up on beaches and in oceans