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Face masks have been our shield against the dangers of COVID-19. All over the world, wearing face masks is mandatory. In a study, it was revealed that every day 129 billion face masks were used.
Unfortunately, face masks are now invading the oceans. NGO Oceans Asia revealed that there are 1.56 billion face masks that are found in the oceans during this year.
Microplastics in Surgical Face Masks
Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, the director of research, explained that the masks that are present in our oceans will not help marine animals to move freely. Masks contain microplastics which can contribute to plastic pollution.
The masks which most people use over the world are made of polypropylene, which are thin fibers of plastic. Studies show that these masks will take 450 years to deteriorate. The average weight of polypropylene in a single mask ranges from 3 to 4 grams.
With 52 billion masks which are produced in 2020, the United Nations warned that there will be an added 4680 to 6240 metric tons of plastic pollution in our oceans.
By 2050 it is forecasted that plastic waste will exceed the marine population in the oceans. This data was reported during the Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
How Face Mask Sales Affect the Oceans
Sales of face masks have increased because of the official health guidelines mandated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The organization has made it clear to always wear the mask in public.
The mandate is believed to control the spread of fatal diseases. In a report, it was mentioned that sales of face masks multiplied from $800 million in 2019 to $166 billion in 2020.
Bondaroff emphasized that the problems of plastic pollution are very alarming. The plastics that are present in our oceans and water supplies can contaminate the waters, which later can kill marine animals. He added that people should be taught how to properly dispose of face masks.
The group highly encourages the use of reusable masks. Furthermore, educating the public on responsible disposing of masks will reduce plastic use. They also wanted to challenge the government authorities on providing strict guidelines for mask manufacturers.
Face masks have become part of everyone’s lives during the onslaught of the pandemic. Everyone needs to dispose their masks properly to avoid causing harm to the ocean and its inhabitants.