They may be helping save human lives but face masks and latex gloves have become death devices for wildlife since the coronavirus pandemic began. Hundreds of animal species have become entangled in the straps of disposable masks.
The most recent case was that of a gull found with a face mask wrapped tightly around his legs – the elastic straps cutting off blood supply to the bird’s limbs. The good news is the gull was saved and has made a full recovery. The bad news is he is just the tip of the iceberg.
Political parties around the globe have called on governments to promote reusable face coverings, rather than disposable masks, as environmentalists report masks and gloves washing up along shorelines across the globe. Deep-sea divers have captured startling footage of aquatic life swimming among a slew of facemask littered across coral reefs and the seabed.
Right now, there are as many as 51-trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean. Add face masks and plastic gloves into the mix and you have the perfect storm for destruction.
“We are using 129-billion face masks and 65-billion plastic gloves every single month. A significant portion of this medical waste is not being disposed of properly, resulting in tragic outcomes. If we don’t take action right now, the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to a surge in ocean pollution,” said David Barritt of Network for Animals (NFA).
“While it may sound far-fetched, a single face mask can kill a whale. Many types of whales feed by swallowing large amounts of water. This makes face masks in the sea a ticking time bomb for these majestic creatures, and well as many more fish and aquatic life like the endangered sea turtle, seal, and dolphin.”
Plastic pollution is also deadly for land-dwelling wildlife, with numerous cases of animals strangled to death by elastic bands, cut in half by plastic bags, suffocated by tin cans – the grisly list goes on. And death by plastic doesn’t end the cycle either; after an animal has died by entanglement, strangulation, suffocation or starvation, and has decomposed, the plastic is released back into the environment… ready to kill again.
So how can we ensure important environmental causes don’t get drowned out by wider Covid-19 issues? By caring enough to dispose of face masks and gloves responsibly. People are urged to snip the straps from their face coverings before throwing them in the rubbish bin. Just like Covid-19 has become a global problem, so is pollution because of the precautions we’re taking in the fight against the virus. Let’s work together for a global solution.