From the moment the pandemic was announced worldwide, our lives have been put on pause which has given a moment of respite for the environment as well, with cleaner air and clearer water.

However, masks and gloves are the latest addition to plastic waste and while they are keeping us safe, they have become a danger to the marine environment and the animals that live within.

4ocean, a company dedicated to cleaning up coastlines and oceans around the world has reported an increase in plastic waste since the pandemic has begun. Danny, a spokesperson from 4ocean, talked to me about the negative impact this can have on the environment.

“The pandemic has indeed intensified the use of single use plastic and plastic waste as the use of plastic PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) has increased, understandably, to be as safe and sanitary as possible.

“Like all single use plastics, it could be detrimental to the environment as there is always the risk of animal and organisms ingesting mismanaged waste leading to damage to ecosystems.”

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While it is difficult to determine how much waste has been created because of COVID-19, its impact on our oceans is undeniable.

“It’s truly hard to pinpoint how much waste has been produced as a result of COVID-19. Our clean-ups have reported seeing a growing number of masks on their daily clean-ups, so waste has definitely increased since the pandemic as most PPE is meant for single use.”

But there is a solution to avoid this plastic pollution from getting worse, and it is not to stop using masks.

“Masks and other forms of PPE aren’t widely recycled at the moment. Masks and rubber gloves can be recycled through TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box though if you’re unable to do that simply place it in a garbage liner that is sealed. Alternatively, we always recommend reusable options and frequent hand washing to combat the pollution that arises with single use products. For masks, it is important to cut the strings when disposing of them as well as those strings could be great harm to animals.”

Therefore, to protect ourselves and the world we live in from the consequences of the pandemic, we should all be more mindful and recycle our plastic PPE or switch to reusable masks.

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