Disposable Masks Are Now Littering The Ocean

by : Niamh Shackleton on :
Disposable Masks Are Now Littering The OceanPA Images

The ongoing health crisis was initially working wonders for the environment, but now gloves and disposable masks are starting to litter the ocean.

With people across the globe being encouraged to wear PPE to protect themselves from the virus, one thing that doesn’t seem to have been relayed is how to correctly dispose of them.


Masks and gloves have began to litter the streets in recent weeks, and now the single-use PPE is making its way to our oceans.

Mask in oceanOpération Mer Propre/Facebook

At one point this year, we appeared to have been making steps in the right direction in terms of ocean pollution, with scientists optimistically predicting that they could be restored by 2050 – something that won’t happen if disposable PPE keeps being discarded this way.

Non-profit organisation Opération Mer Propre frequently litter-pick along the Côte d’Azur, and raised concerns after coming across several masks.


Posting some photos of what it found on its Facebook in the past month, the organisation wrote [translated into English]:

Operation COVID 19 this morning… this is it the first disposable masks arrived in the Mediterranean…!

Unfortunately, it was expected to see the number of masks and gloves thrown directly into the gutters… more than ever we will have to take action against all these incivilities, from the can to the mask because whoever throws his can will also throw his mask…! It’s just the beginning and if nothing changes it will become a real ecological disaster and maybe even health…!

Opération COVID 19 ce matin…ça y est les premiers masques jetables sont arrivés en Méditerranée…! C'était…

Posted by Opération Mer Propre on Saturday, May 23, 2020

Laurent Lambord of Opération Mer Propre also expressed his concerns on Facebook. He said, ‘Knowing that more than 2 billion disposable masks have been ordered, soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the waters of the Mediterranean.’


While the masks may have short-term health benefits for people protecting themselves from coronavirus, PPE masks and latex gloves getting into the ocean are bound to have have long-term detrimental effects on the environment.

Masks have an estimated life span of 450 years in the natural environment, making them ‘veritable ecological time bombs’, reported Treehugger.

MaskOpération Mer Propre/Facebook

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This issue isn’t only happening in the Mediterranean – many masks have also been found on the beaches of Asia.


As per The Guaridan, Gary Stokes of OceansAsia explained that he found around 70 masks on a beach that was 100m long.

He said:

Ever since society started wearing masks, the cause and effects are being seen on the beaches.

[…] It’s no better, no worse [than other forms of plastic pollution], just another item we’re leaving as a legacy to the next generation.

If that’s not enough to make you think twice about simply dropping your mask on the floor or beach, I don’t know what is.


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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: News, Masks, Now, oceans, Plastic Pollution, PPE, World News


The Guardian and 1 other
  1. The Guardian

    'More masks than jellyfish': coronavirus waste ends up in ocean

  2. Treehugger

    Disposable Masks Are Now Littering the Ocean