Environmentalists are worried about the impact of masks and gloves will have on the world's oceans and ecosystem in the future. During the annual International Coastal Cleanup in September of last year, data showed that a total of 62,210 PPE (personal protective equipment) items were gathered from oceans and beach shorelines around the world! This was historic as this marked the first time PPE was listed as a data category for the event, which as been going on for the past 30 years! Ocean Conservancy is a non-profit organization that puts this on each year. They focus on cleaning trash from beaches as well as protecting the world's oceans and waterways.
"We absolutely believe that PPE waste is a significant threat to oceans and marine life," Dr. George Leonard, a chief scientist with Ocean Conservancy, said in a statement to CNN. "There's enhanced demand and use of single-use plastics like bags and containers by consumers and businesses for groceries and food takeout." Other trash that was found and cleaned up was the usual food wrappers, cigarettes butts, plastic bottles, straws, plastic bags, and take out containers. In 2019, a total of 23.3 million pounds of trash was collected worldwide!
As of October 2020, with a total of 76 countries involved, at least 1.6 million pounds of trash have been collected by Ocean Conservancy. "It is estimated that 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves are being used and mismanaged globally, which is leading to widespread environmental contamination," according to the Environmental Science and Technology journal. Leonard also mentions that he is worried about humans permanently destroying sea creatures and their habitats with "no immediate end in sight." "No one would have thought a few months ago that the entire world would be using them," Leonard mentions.