‘Please dispose of it properly’ - plea after PPE waste found on beaches
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A Suffolk environmental activist has called on residents to avoid using disposable face masks if possible after a study revealed the “concerning” amount of PPE litter on beaches.
The Marine Conservation Society has found that PPE waste was found on one third of beaches in the country by volunteers taking part in September’s Great British Beach Clean.
Participants in the week-long event were asked to record the number of face masks and gloves that they picked up.
In this year’s beach clean, volunteers were asked to adopt a 100-metre stretch of beach themselves, and organise their own, smaller beach cleans with family friends and “bubbles”, in line with government guidance.
Lizzie Prior, co-ordinator of the Great British Beach Clean, said the volume of PPE discovered on beaches during the event was “certainly of concern”.
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She added: “The sharp increase in PPE litter should be a word of warning for what could be a new form of litter polluting our beaches in the future.”
Like many other single-use items, disposable face masks and gloves pose a threat to wildlife on land and at sea.
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Marine animals could mistake face masks and gloves for prey, filling their stomachs with materials which will not break down and could prove to be fatal.
Wildlife can also become entangled in the straps of face masks if they are not cut off.
The news has prompted a prominent environmental campaigner to issue a message to residents in a bid to cut down the levels of PPE that is discarded by litter louts.
Jason Alexander, known as the Wildlife Gadget Man, regularly patrols Ipswich and the surrounding area in a bid to rid Suffolk of litter.
Mr Alexander is urging people to avoid buying disposable masks if possible, instead opting for face coverings that can be washed and reused.
He said: “I’ve found hundreds of masks - I find them every time I go out. I had never come across masks until the lockdown.
“I had one period where I picked up 500 masks in a 10-day period.
“It’s really disappointing that there are so many locations, such as supermarkets, that are promoting single-use, disposable masks. It’s really frustrating.
“If you are using a disposable mask, my advice would be please dispose of it properly.”