Environmental organizations are raising issues against the growing ocean pollution caused by increased waste due to the coronavirus. Millions of people around the world have put on the disposable face masks and latex gloves to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but their way of disposing of those items was incorrect which in turn is leading to ocean pollution.
The consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic have now started affecting the oceans by increasing the plastic waste choking and threatening marine life leading to ocean pollution. The masks are floating like jellyfish and the gloves are scattered all over the ocean beds. The French non- profit ‘Operation Mer Propre’ whose activities involve regular cleaning of the wastes along the Cote d’Azur, began raising the alarm from late last month. Joffrey Peltier of the organization said that divers have found the “COVID-waste”, which includes dozens and dozens of gloves, masks, innumerable bottles of sanitizers beneath the Mediterranean Sea, along with the usual wastes of disposal cups and aluminum cans.
Hong Kong based Oceans Asia has also raised similar issues as the divers found enormous masks in the sea beds of the city’s uninhabited Soko Islands. Oceans Asia’s Gary Strokes told The Guardian that, “On a beach 100 meters long, we found about 70 masks, and 30 more were found a week later, and that too on an uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere.” His curiosity led him to see how far the masks and other COVID- wastes have travelled and he began checking the nearby beaches. And after visiting those beaches he said that the COVID- wastes are found everywhere. He also said that “Ever since the society started wearing masks, the cause and effects are being seen on the beaches.” He said that while some of the marine wastes are due to carelessness but conjectured on the fact that the lightweight masks are carried from land, boats, and landfills by the wind.
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In the United States the environmental organizations have raised similar issues on the growing plastic pollution and now they are worried about the COVID- wastes. Nick Mallos, senior director of the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program, said that careless disposal of medical wastes has been threatening the oceans, waterways, and marine life for a long time. Now additionally people are using one-time-use plastic bags and non- reusable bags at grocery stores. While we need to balance public health with environmental impact, Mallos said these kinds of changes are more concerning knowing the facts that both plastics are harming the environment and plastic can harbour the virus up to two to three days.
Environmental activists have warned about ocean pollution for years. A United Nations report from 2018 said that roughly 13 million metric tons of plastic pollute the ocean every year. This pollution is harming the biodiversity, the economy, and health, as the U.N. reports say. The Mediterranean sees 570,000 tonnes of plastic flow into it annually, as reported by the WWF, which equals to the dumping of 33, 800 plastic bottles every minute into the sea. And now these masks are an ecological time bomb with a lifespan of 450 years and will cause several environmental problems on our planet.
The tortoises and dolphins in the region can mistake a mask with their food. The people of the organization can anytime find any marine creature dead and later in the post-mortem will find a mask as the reason for death. “This is inevitable and it’s no better no worse, just another item we’re leaving as a legacy to the next generation,” says Gary Strokes.
While amid this ocean pollution, a study was published last month which said that the COVID- 19 lockdown has reduced the daily carbon emissions, it has made a 17% drop globally. Photos and videos shared all over social media showed animals moving freely in areas that are usually overcrowded with human beings. Lions were seen sunbathing in the closed national parks of South Africa, and a group of goats was roaming on the streets of a mostly deserted Welsh town.