Masks and gloves are saving us all from the scourge of the pandemic. They're also helping poison the Earth's oceans, thanks to the negligence of oafs. How a conscientious mask-wearer can also be a litterer, dropping their PPE into waterways rather than garbage cans, is a true head-scratcher. Here's a solution: wear reusable, washable cloth masks to cut down on plastic consumption altogether.
In the second half of 2020, more than 107,000 items of PPE were collected by volunteers around the world according to the Ocean Conservancy group — a figure its members believe is a vast undercount of the year's true totals.
"Once in the environment, disposable PPE act like any other single-use plastic, likely never breaking down but rather breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces and persisting indefinitely," said Nicholas Mallos, senior director of the Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas program. "In fact, a recent study found that a single disposable mask can shed up to 173,000 microfibers — tiny plastic fibers — in a single day.
The revelation that the average American consumes a credit card size amount of plastic every week continues to be very believable and gross. But, lest anyone read this and think they are doing their part saving the environment by NOT wearing a mask. Do not let anyone get away with that. And using the "173,000 plastic micro fibers" stat as an excuse for going maskless in the Panera, is some bologna. Wear masks. Cloth ones if possible.