Those COVID-19 masks, gloves and wipes we’re all using are polluting land and sea

Divers have collected discarded personal protective equipment like this off the coast of France. All those disposable gloves, masks and wipes that people are using to protect themselves against COVID-19 are creating a waste problem. Scientists in Canada are working on a made-in-Canada solution. 
Opération Mer Propre

Date of Publication: June 9, 2020

Source: CBC

The negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are not limited to human health and the economy, with effects on the environment beginning to appear. With the increased usage of personal protective equipment (PPE), disposable masks, gloves and sanitary wipes are creating a global waste problem. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, sewage facilities across Canada are seeing a recent increase in discarded masks, gloves and wet wipes being flushed down toilets, leading to challenges in sewage treatment. Unlike most sewage material, PPE items are not biodegradable and can damage the waste facility equipment so it must be separated from the biodegradable material and placed in a waste pile to be disposed of separately. In addition to damaging sewage plant equipment, the masks and gloves clog pipes, pumps and other infrastructure, along with adding to litter in city streets. The increase in PPE related waste has created a research niche in the development of biodegradable masks and gloves, with a lab at the University of British Columbia rapidly designing eco-friendly prototype masks from all wood fiber. But the key to the utility of these eco-friendly masks will be durability and ability to filter out viral particles as effectively as standard masks.

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Summary by: Hira Raheel