Over 1.5 BILLION Face Masks Now Believed to Be Polluting Oceans Thanks to 2020

 As 2020 comes to a close, the defensive face mask could be one of the most recognisable icons of the year.

As the novel coronavirus crossed the globe earlier this year, billions of individuals started to wear face coverings, with one report estimating that no fewer than 129 billion face masks were used worldwide every month.

However, as face masks in our day-to-day lives have become commonplace, they have also evolved to clutter every corner of our neighbourhoods, from storm drains to creeks, parks to beaches.

And now it turns out that, according to a recent study from marine conservation NGO OceansAsia, our oceans are swimming with face masks.

"It's very hard to move once plastic enters the marine environment," Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, research director of the organisation, told Denver 7.

"The fact that we are starting to discover masks that are breaking up indicates that this is a real issue, that masks are producing microplastics," Bondaroff said.


The Hong Kong-based group predicts that in 2020 alone, some 1.56 billion face masks would have flooded our oceans, a grim statistic they have experienced first-hand since face masks started to wash up on a small island off the coast of the Chinese mega-city since the pandemic began.

The masks could become yet another significant contributor to the ongoing plastic waste crisis in our ocean, taking as long as 450 years for disposable face masks to break down.

Multiple layers of polypropylene, which are thin plastic fibres, are the single-use masks that are recommended by health officials and used as personal protective equipment in hospitals around the world.

And we could look at anywhere from 4,680 to 6,240 metric tonnes of new marine plastic waste with 52 billion masks created this year, with the average weight of each single-use polypropylene surgical face mask being 3 to 4 grammes.

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