Over 1.56 billion discarded face masks used as a preventive measure to contain COVID-19 transmission will enter oceans in 2020, aggravating plastic pollution and threatening marine life.
These disposed non-biodegradable masks made from polypropylene, weighing about 6,240 metric tonnes, could take at least 450 years to degrade. Microplastics released by them would enter the body of marine creatures, severely impacting their life cycle.
According to various global production projections, around 52 billion masks were manufactured in 2020 as part of pandemic prevention efforts.
These single-use face masks are challenging to recycle due to both composition and risk of contamination and infection, according to the “Masks on the Beach: The Impact of COVID-19 on Marine Plastic Pollution” report.
The amount of global plastic waste in the ocean is expected to triple at the end of 2090, resulting in more plastics than marine creatures.