Improper disposal of masks and gloves will add to land and marine pollution
Improper disposal of masks and gloves will add to land and marine pollution Image Credit: Reuters

They are imperative in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, but, some people are not disposing off single-use face masks and gloves properly. People across the globe have taken to Twitter to share pictures of littered masks and gloves. "When will we learn?", environmentally conscious Twitter users have asked.

Twitter user @jimmynicholas12 asked: "Are discarded masks the new cigarette butts?"

Tweep @SarahYoungRuns posted: "Strange times and behaviours from people supposedly concerned with Covid19. Never have I seen so many discarded face masks and gloves on the streets and in the parks!!! What is wrong with folk that they can’t safely dispose of these?"

According to an early March Reuters report, single-use face masks are appearing on beaches and nature trails in Hong Kong after the semi-autonomous city’s 7.4 million people have been using them every day. A month later, this problem could only have worsened with mask usage growing across the globe.

Environmental groups have found the masks in the countryside or the sea, damaging the environment. Marine life in particular can suffer by mistaking the masks for food like they do with other trash. The masks, made of polypropylene, will not break down easily. Gary Stokes, the founder of the environmental group Oceans Asia, said he found 70 discarded masks within 100 meters of the beach and an additional 30 masks when he returned a week later, Reuters reported.

The only solution right now is to dispose masks properly in trashbins and not leave them lying around.

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Another concern raised by the twitterati was how improper disposal of masks could become a cross-contamination risk for trash collectors and street cleaners. 

Also read: Used masks carelessly thrown around can spread infections, say UAE doctors