During the first seven months of the coronavirus pandemic, incidents of littering with face masks and other personal protective equipment increased by 9000 per cent, according to a study from the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, and may have even assisted the virus’s spread.
According to BBC News, the study, which was published in the journal Nature Sustainability, found that around two million masks were collected as litter in 11 nations. This was simply a snapshot of what was going on in the rest of the planet.
The study discovered that Covid-related litter began an “exponential surge” in March 2020, shortly after the global pandemic was declared and governments around the world imposed restrictions, including mandatory face mask use.
“Overall the study shows the impact that legislating the use of items such as masks can have on their occurrence as litter,” Dr. Keiron Roberts, lead researcher with the University of Portsmouth, said, adding “We found that littered masks had an exponential increase from March 2020, resulting in an 84-fold increase by October 2020.”
“We need to avoid this pandemic litter becoming a lasting legacy,” Roberts added.
Using the trash collection software Litterati, the study was carried out in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The UK has the “highest total proportion of masks, gloves, and wipes as litter,” according to the analysis.
According to the survey, masks accounted for more than 5% of all litter in the country in August, September, and October 2020, with wipes and gloves accounting for another 1.5 per cent.