x

Society

California Groups Track Face Masks, Gloves Bound for Ocean

PACIFICA, Calif. — Disposable masks, gloves and other types of personal protective equipment are safeguarding untold lives during the coronavirus pandemic. They're also creating a worldwide pollution problem, littering streets and sending an influx of harmful plastic and other waste into landfills, sewage systems and oceans.

In Northern California, environmental groups are tracking the issue along the coast — and trying to do something about it.

The Pacific Beach Coalition recently noticed a dramatic increase in discarded PPE on beaches in and around the city of Pacifica, south of San Francisco, where it's been doing monthly cleanups for nearly 25 years.

Volunteers record what they pick up to gauge what might end up in the ocean. Until 2020, the litter was mostly cigarette butts and food wrappers.

"What are we going to do? We got masks. We got gloves. We got all those hand wipes, the sani wipes. They're everywhere. They're in my neighborhood, in my streets. What can we do?" asked Lynn Adams, the coalition's president.

The group and others are calling attention to the issue, saying what's recorded is likely only a fraction of the personal protective equipment hitting beaches and oceans. 

Larger mammals can ingest PPE, and plastic from the items can disrupt the ocean's food chains. "They're all made of plastic," Adams said.

A report last year by the advocacy group OceansAsia found nearly 1.6 billion masks would flood oceans in 2020 alone, based on global production estimates and other factors. OceansAsia said masks could take as long as 450 years to break down.

The Marine Mammal Center, a conservation group that rescues and rehabilitates mammals, conducts research and provides education, said animals can get trapped in discarded PPE, or mistake it for food.

"Obviously, PPE is critical right now, but we know that with increased amounts of plastic and a lot of this stuff getting out into the ocean, it can be a really big threat to marine mammals and all marine life," said the center's conservation educator, Adam Ratner.

One small thing Ratner suggests is cutting the loops before discarding a mask, which can help prevent animals from getting tangled in them.

Sophia Woehl was among those volunteering in the cleanup at a beach in Pacifica last week.

"We want to keep ourselves safe, but we also want to keep the rest of the environment safe, too, and we're not doing that right now with just leaving them on the ground," she said.

RELATED

TAMPA, Florida - The New York Post article by David Propper begins thusly: “Christos Alexander Themelis Jr.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

1 of 2 Abducted Louisiana Children is Found Dead in Mississippi after Their Mother is Killed

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Louisiana woman was found dead in her home Thursday, and her two young daughters were abducted and found hours later in Mississippi — one dead and the other alive, police said.

ATHENS - While Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has brought an accelerating economy to Greece, his government is struggling to hold down soaring food prices that have led many households to switch to cheaper products or cut spending.

LONDON - Noted British actor and writer Stephen Fry, a champion of the return of the stolen Parthenon Marbles from the London Museum to Greece, compared their theft by Lord Elgin to the Nazis taking the Arc de Triomphe from Paris.

CORFU - The death toll of tourists on Greek islands reached three with the discovery of the body of a missing American on a beach on a small island, Mathraki, off the popular island of Corfu, and four others still not found on other islands.

TEL AVIV, Israel  — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved the influential War Cabinet tasked with steering the war in Gaza, Israeli officials said Monday, a move that comes days after a key member of the body bolted the government over frustrations surrounding the Israeli leader's handling of the war.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.