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Photo Essay: One Picture Tells…Masks on the Ground

November 4, 2021 – 5:21 pm |

Disturbed by the number of masks of varying types that I have seen since the pandemic when walking around London I decided to do a small experiment.
I wanted to see just how many I could find within 15 minutes. Without barely even looking I found six. This is a disturbing …

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Photo Essay: One Picture Tells…Masks on the Ground

Submitted by on November 4, 2021 – 5:21 pmNo Comment

Disturbed by the number of masks of varying types that I have seen since the pandemic when walking around London I decided to do a small experiment.

I wanted to see just how many I could find within 15 minutes. Without barely even looking I found six. This is a disturbing number of them to come across if you think of how short that time period is.

This is of course just a microcosm of a bigger issue and a report released this year by Greenpeace states that “Since masks became compulsory, it’s estimated that the UK throws out 53 million masks per day.”

I would like to use this photo essay experiment to try to highlight this issue. Because clearly while we try to solve one problem, trying to stop the spread of a pandemic, we are also putting more strain on the planet by creating more pollution.

Masks are noticeable with any and all other litter next to drink cans, wrapper papers and cigarette butts, entangled in weeds that are growing out of cracks in the pavement to lying in gutters.

 

Mask on the ground number 1.

Mask on the ground number 2.

Mask on the ground number 3.

Mask on the ground number 4.

Mask on the ground number 5.

Mask on the ground number 6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greenpeace report goes on to say that these masks find their way into our oceans and the single use masks are made out of plastics “including polypropylene, polyethylene and vinyl.” These materials can take up to 450 years to break down completely and in the process of disintegrating become tiny microplastics that are ingested by marine life and humans too.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) states in a 2019 piece that the chemical threats to human health from these microplastics range from methylmercury poisoning during fetal development as well as diverse autoimmune effects that can affect the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

A 2019 UN report regarding the effects of microplastics on marine life states that “Because they [microplastics] look like food, they are eaten by fish, amphibians, insect, larvae and marine animals as well as seabirds and other marine life, blocking digestive tracts and causing physical problems.”

But masks can cause other hazards to animals as Klare Kennett from the animal charity RSPCA states in a September 2020 piece in The Independent that “Since March we’ve had to rescue over 900 animals – it’s particularly birds who are getting their feet caught up in the elastic bit of disposable masks. They can’t move or get away.”

In the long run, the issue is not just about disposable masks that contain toxic materials because as long as we use any plastic there will be hazards to all living beings on this planet animal and human alike. However, highlighting masks at this juncture in our planet’s existence is extremely important because the last thing that we want to do is add even more plastic to our already fragile eco-system.

So be aware and of course do continue to stay healthy and wear a mask but if you don’t need your own mask anymore* don’t litter, just bin it.

Help of where and how to discard disposable masks safely can be found in this Greenpeace report which does have some really handy hints such as, on the advice of the RSPCA, snipping your mask straps before binning them.

 

* Don’t pick up anyone else’s mask as it could be contaminated. 

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