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COVID 19: Effects of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) on Pollution

Image: Opération Mer Propre, Facebook

A new finding from an NGO, Operation Mer Propre (Operation Clean Sea), based out in France, is sounding alarm bells over a new form of marine pollution associated to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is being used to deal with Coronavirus/COVID19.

PPE equipment is widely being utilized by the corona warriors that include medical (doctors, nurses, and other staff), non-medical staff, as well as the wider general public to protect themselves from the virus. PPE mainly consists of surgical masks, gloves, and gowns. Although the efforts to educate PPE users on the use of the equipment are well paid off, it appears that there is a lack of guidance to sections of users such as the general public on disposing PPE waste appropriately. Additionally, the lack of infrastructure in appropriately collecting and disposing the used-PPE perhaps is another hindering element in disposing the PPE waste carefully. These drawbacks appear to be leading to more pollution to the environment around.

Ça vous dit cet été de vous baigner avec le COVID 19…? Sachant que plus de 2 milliards de masques jetables ont été commandés,bientôt il risque d’y avoir plus de masques que de méduses dans les eaux de la Méditerranée…! Il en va de la responsabilité de chacun afin d’éviter cette nouvelle pollution mais aussi de nos élus,députés et pouvoirs publics. En effet depuis plusieurs années certaines communes essaient de lutter contre toutes ces incivilités qui détruisent nôtre environnement et nôtre santé à long terme,il serait donc peut être temps d’unir toutes les bonnes initiatives afin résoudre le plus rapidement et le plus fermement cette nouvelle pollution. La crise sanitaire nous a permis de voir le meilleur et le pire en nous,si nous ne faisons rien c’est le pire qui va arriver alors que c’est simplement une question de bon sens pour éviter tout celà. Je dirais simplement pour finir qu’un masque jetable ça se jette à la poubelle comme tout les autres déchets d’ailleurs.

Posted by Laurent Lombard on Saturday, 23 May 2020


One example is the recent finding from France – A group of divers that are part of the French NGO found large quantities of used face masks and gloves near the French Riviera resort of Antibes. This PPE pollution appears to be extending throughout the Mediterranean seabed and littering the seabed. The team shouts a bleak warning that very soon there will be more waste associated to masks and gloves in the Mediterranean waters than the jellyfish. The growing pollution related to Coronovirus PPE is linked to the waste being not properly placed back into the rubbish bins and that they are left on to the streets and pavements. This waste is getting mixed up with the rainwater and washed up into the seas. Alternatively, all it would take is just a push of wind to fly the masks from the streets into the nearby sea. Given that the virus can stay active on the PPE for up to 4 days as some reports suggest, the failure to properly dispose the PPE that has virus particles on it could lead to the spread of the virus further.

The team urges the PPE users to be considerate, stop littering the streets, and behave responsibly when it comes to using the PPE. They further encourage the users to avoid using plastic gloves, single use masks, and hydroalcoholic hand gels made of plastic bottles. People can use reusable masks instead of single use/disposables, also we can use soap bars to wash hands instead of using single use non-recyclable hand gel bottles. This helps to prevent from adding a new wave of pollution to the planet, particularly the seas, which they are already struggling to cope up with.

References:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-52807526

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/coronavirus-masks-gloves-oceans-pollution-waste-a9469471.html

https://www.euronews.com/2020/06/01/coronavirus-pollution-plastic-masks-and-gloves-are-already-littering-the-seabed-campaigner

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