The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and mask mandates rolled out by governments worldwide have caused an “exponential increase” in face mask pollution, comprehensive research based on data collected in 11 countries suggests.
On Thursday, the Nature Sustainability journal published the shocking study of a University of Portsmouth team of researchers.
A comprehensive analysis of personal protective gear (PPE) was conducted by the group. “exponential increase”These litters are collected in conjunction with anti-coronavirus precautions. The data used to collect the litter in 11 countries (Australia, Belgium, France, Germany and New Zealand) was used by Litterati.
This research covers 14 months. September 2019 was used as the baseline. Covid-related litter began growing at alarming levels in March 2020. The virus spread quickly and became a pandemic. In response, governments around the globe imposed many restrictions.
“Overall the study shows the impact that legislating the use of items such as masks can have on their occurrence as litter. We found that littered masks had an exponential increase from March 2020, resulting in an 84-fold increase by October 2020,”Keiron Roberts is the University of Portsmouth’s lead researcher.
Among the countries sampled, the UK has shown the “highest overall proportion of masks, gloves and wipes as litter,”The study found that masks accounted for more than 5% of all litter produced in the period. For example, in August-October 2020 masks made up more than 5%, while wipes and gloves made up 1.5%.
PPE litter increased nearly 9000%, clearly demonstrating the enforcement of wearing a face mask. “must be accompanied with education campaigns to limit their release into the environment,”Roberts also added. The researchers stated that although pandemic restrictions like travel restrictions have had some positive effects on the environment (e.g. curbs on international travel), the rising levels of PPE pollution is alarming.
“In April 2020, it was beginning to appear that there were some small positives in the decrease in human activity caused by lockdown, with improvements in air quality and water quality. Reduced human activity also saw reports of animals coming back to towns and cities,”Roberts said that also masks began to appear. “where they hadn’t been before.”