The Environmental Impacts of a Pandemic

Face mask pollution plastic ocean

The coronavirus pandemic has had contrasting environmental consequences. On the positive side, it has resulted in carbon emissions falling dramatically. However, due to the demand for personal protective equipment, disposable face masks and gloves have been littering oceans, waterways and other parts of nature.

In Europe, this problem has been witnessed in the mediterranean sea, with plastic gloves and masks popping up on both the seabed and in the water. In France, the situation has become so bad that authorities raised the fine for littering face masks to 135 euros

The Plastic Problem

The ocean plastic problem has been a growing issue, with the UN declaring war on it. In fact, it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. With the coronavirus pandemic resulting in even more disposable face masks and gloves entering the oceans, this time prediction could reduce.

Plastics Journey to the Ocean

If masks are not disposed of appropriately, plastic litter can make its way to the ocean. The WWF have listed the three main ways this happens:

  • Throwing Plastic in the Bin

Instead of recycling plastic, much of it ends up in responsible bins. As this travels on the garbage trucks, the lightweight plastic can fly away, falling into drains and into the waterways and oceans.

  • Littering

Littering on the street results in the plastic making its way to drains, which lead to the ocean.

  • Down the drain

Many products used daily are flushed down toilets, including cotton buds, wet wipes and sanitary products. Again, these lead to the ocean, contributing to the problem.

The plastic gloves and face masks used to fight the virus have ended up in the environment in the same way, with binning and littering being the leading drivers.

Possible solutions

Since even if you would throw your face mask in the bin it still could end up in the ocean, one possible solution is to start using reusable face masks. This is a more sustainable and responsible protection than disposable face masks since you can wash and reuse them over and over again.

Since the health of our oceans is of great importance, Fase Wear is donating 1% of all revenue to The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organization that is developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.