New estimates of marine plastic pollution from COVID-19 face masks

2021-04-25T10:01:07-05:00April 22nd, 2021|Categories: Conservation News|Tags: , , |

Surgical masks such as these have become a common sight on streets around the world.

Following in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic were growing fears and numerous accounts of discarded single use PPE making its way into the world’s oceans. Yet despite these very real concerns there is no extensive quantitative estimation of the amount of discarded face masks likely to litter coastal regions. Chowdhury, Chowdhury and Sait have risen to this challenge in their latest paper – using datasets for people’s behaviour and linking them to data sets for solid waste management. They estimate that between 0.15 million tons and 0.39 million tons of face masks will enter our oceans in this year alone – with lower solid waste management facilities increasing the amount.

N95 masks, surgical masks and other similar disposable masks contain significant amounts of non-recyclable plastic. The plastics used include: polypropylene, polyurethane, polyacrylonitrile, polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyethylene and polyester. As such we can expect facemasks in the ocean environment to have a smothering effect on small benthic organisms, act as an ingestion hazard for larger fauna (choking when airways are blocked or starving if digestive tracts are blocked), act as an entanglement hazard for mid sized fauna due to the straps that secure masks to faces and become sources of microplastic fibres in the marine environment.

The authors of the paper note that “Significant investments are required from global communities in improving the waste management facilities for better disposal of masks and solid waste.” to which I would add that those of us who can use re-usable masks should do so and ensure we dispose of single use masks safely and responsibly.

The paper “Estimating marine plastic pollution from COVID-19 face masks in coastal regions” by Hemal Chowdhury, Tamal Chowdhury and Sadiq M.Sait, 24 April 2021 is published in Marine Pollution Bulletin available through the ELSEVIER.

by Andrew Pollard


Stay up-to-date and informed…

Select list(s) to subscribe to

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: MarineBio Conservation Society, 2926 Barker Cypress Rd, Suite 10208, Houston, TX, 77084, You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

OceanSeaMarine Life News

The MarineBio News Blog >-<°°>-< View Daily Marine Life Newsfeeds
Join our very popular Facebook group ~ The Largest Group of Marine Biologists/Conservationists Online

Also follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube!

Dive In For More
Find out more >

Canada Launches Satellite Technology That Identifies ‘Dark Vessels’ Illegally Catching Billions of Fish

by GNN
Find out more >


Have a comment, question or suggestion? Feel free to submit comments to start or join discussions. Please keep in mind that all comments are moderated and your email address will NOT be published. Get your free Gravatar (Globally Recognized Avatar) before commenting to show your personal image instead of the default.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Go to Top