Alarming numbers of Corona-Virus Face Mask on Beaches of hong Kong
Disposed of single-use face masks used to stop the spread of coronavirus could be causing significant harm to the environment.
Ecological group OceansAsia performed a recent study trip to the Soko's islands in Hong Kong where it found masses of surgical masks washing up on the coastline.
Gary Stokes, OceanAsia's Founder, Said: "We have found 70 discarded masks within 100 metres of the beach and an additional 30 masks when we returned a week later. Over time the team has seen the odd mask here and now, however this time they were all along the high tide line and foreshore with new arrivals coming in on the current. When you suddenly have a population of seven million people wearing one to two masks per day the amount of trash generated is going to be substantial.
" The masks were not that old, some almost looked brand new meaning they were not in the water long."
Teale Phelps Bondaroff, Director of Research at OceansAsia, said: "A mask that is ingested by a local turtle, pink dolphin or finless porpoise, for example, could easily become stuck in the digestive system of this animal, thereby killing it.
" Most of these masks contain or are made from polypropylene, which does not break down rapidly. Marine plastic pollution is a major problem. It is approximated that every year, over eight million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans. This plastic does not disappear but rather gradually breaks down into micro-plastic, which gets in food cycle, with terrible result.
" Estimates recommend that more than 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and over a million sea birds are eliminated by marine plastic yearly. Marine plastic adsorbs toxins, which results in it poisoning animals that accidentally ingest it."
The firm notes individuals should consult with their regional authorities to discover the proper methods to dispose of surgical masks properly and notes the rise in mask-based rubbish highlights "severe weak points in waste management and public education".