Posted by Roger Mallett Posted on 8 November 2020

PPE pollution: Scotland’s beaches littered with discarded face masks and gloves

After warnings of the dangers single-use face masks could have for the environment, the reality of discarded face masks is beginning to show.

Volunteers determined to rid Scotland’s shores of litter have found that face masks and gloves are present on almost a quarter of Scotland’s beaches this year.

That’s according to the Marine Conservation Society, for whom around 400 volunteers headed to nearly 100 Scottish shores as part of their Great British Beach Clean 2020.

They found face masks and gloves on 23.5 per cent of them.

Meanwhile, data from the inland Source to Sea Litter Quest also found personal protective equipment (PPE) in 69 per cent of the areas that volunteers were cleaning.

Lizzie Prior, the MCS beach clean co-ordinator, said: “The amount of PPE our volunteers found on beaches and inland this year is certainly of concern.

“Considering masks were only made mandatory a matter of months ago, the spike in their presence on our shores is worrying.

“Whilst we continue to battle with the ongoing presence of other single-use litter, PPE pollution cannot be part of our new normal.”

The most common litter item on Scottish beaches was plastic and small polystyrene pieces up to 50cm, found in 78.2 per cent of areas.

Wet wipes were also a main offender, found on 45.8 per cent of beaches; plastic and polystyrene packets such as crisps, sweets and sandwiches on 26.5 per cent; plastic cotton bud sticks on 19.9 per cent; and plastic string at 15.6 per cent of the areas.

Catherine Gemmell, MCS Scotland conservation officer, said: “So much avoidable plastic waste is still being produced and discarded on Scotland’s shores, eventually ending up in the ocean.

“Wet wipes, cigarette butts and other plastic single-use items remain prolific and are among the most commonly found items this year.

“We use the data collected during the surveying and clearing of litter from Scotland’s beaches to show the Scottish Government what urgently needs to be done to stop the plastic tide at source”.

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