129 billion disposable masks threaten the oceans
"If only 1% of masks were disposed of incorrectly and scattered in nature, this would result in up to 10 million masks per month polluting the environment," according to estimates collected by the organization.In this article, we explain why disposable masks are polluting the planet. If you also want to contribute your grain of sand, read until the end.
129 billion disposable masks threaten the oceans every monthDid you know that in the city of Wuhan in China alone, the volume of medical waste was five times its usual figure? 240 tons a day were reached, according to the South China Morning Post . In Spain, the data is not encouraging either for the environment. In our country, more than 600 million surgical masks have been purchased, as reported by Greenpeace. In a nutshell, "more than 1,300 tons of disposable plastic materials," they add. With the aim of raising awareness, at the end of July the environmental organization set off all the alarms. On their website, they echoed a study published by Environmental Science & Technology : "Every month some 129,000 million disposable masks and 65,000 million gloves are being used in the world." Undoubtedly, a disproportionate amount of waste that landfills and incinerators can hardly cope with. What does this mean? That a very important percentage runs the risk of ending up at the bottom of the oceans. A fact that is already happening. As proof of this, the WWF published a video under the campaign "Pick up your glove for a nature without plastics". In it, you can see images of disposable masks and gloves floating on the seabed.
Is it the end of the law against single-use plastic?Last year 2019, the European Parliament approved one of the most anticipated laws: the ban on single-use plastics. The measure, which would mainly affect cotton sticks, cutlery and straws, represented an important advance.
The United Nations estimates that 13 million tons of plastic are dumped into the sea every year and that half of the plastic produced globally is for single-use items.However, this regulation did not include disposable masks and medical gloves as they are essential products for the protection of health workers. Oblivious to the fact that, a year later, they would invade every corner of the planet. Although society as a whole seemed to be increasingly aware of zero waste, the coronavirus has turned everything upside down. Will this mean a step backwards in the reduction of plastic? You don't have to, there are plenty of sustainable alternatives .
“It is true that for reasons of hygiene and health it is not feasible to prohibit the use of single-use plastics for the duration of the health emergency. But it is very important to avoid that, once the crisis is resolved, a greater environmental problem arises. We must not forget that the problem of plastic pollution will still be present”, explains Ethel Eljarrat, researcher at the Department of Environmental Chemistry at the Institute for Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies (IDAEA - CSIC), in an article on this topic published in The Conversation .