NewsDiscarded corona masks endanger the environment and animals

Discarded corona masks endanger the environment and animals

In the pandemic, protective masks are an indispensable weapon against the coronavirus. But the protective disguise also has its downsides. These could have consequences for decades.

Portsmouth – Corona protective masks carelessly thrown away represent a serious problem for the environment and animals, according to researchers from the University of Portsmouth.

For a study published this week in the journal “Nature Sustainability”, the scientists examined the connection between corona measures in eleven countries – including Germany and Great Britain – and the amount of carelessly disposed of corona masks and other protective equipment. To do this, they analyzed data from publicly accessible databases, including data from the Litterati garbage collector app, and looked at the period from September 2019 to the first six months of the pandemic.

From March to October 2020, the number of masks that were not properly disposed of rose 84-fold. Great Britain took the place of the negative leader. With more than five percent of all carelessly thrown waste, masks made up the largest proportion in an international comparison. While in other countries more and more incorrectly disposed of protective gloves or cleaning wipes were discovered, in Germany only the amount of mask waste in public spaces increased significantly.

Influence of the protective measures

“It was no surprise that many discarded masks turned up, but what surprised us was to see how much certain national coronavirus measures have affected the emergence of the masks,” wrote lead researcher Keiron Roberts. The scientists found that the garbage problem slowly increased during the stricter lockdown phases in spring 2020, but only got really big when more travel and social activities became possible again in summer and autumn, but masks were still required.

Portsmouth University plastics expert Steve Fletcher warned: “Without better disposal, we will face an environmental disaster.” Most masks are made of durable plastic and could last for decades or even centuries in the environment. Microplastics could get into the earth or water and animals could choke on the masks. The Portsmouth scientists called on governments to educate them more about how protective masks should be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. dpa

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