Global Pandemic Increases Plastic Pollution Thanks to Single-Use Masks


Grayson Salomon '22

Disposable masks have created an even bigger pollution problem when people toss them on the street.

Delaney Mulqueen '22, Environment Editor

As if the CoronaVirus couldn’t get any worse, disposable masks have polluted the oceans so horribly there eventually could be more masks than jellyfish

Similar to six-pack rings, “COVID waste” has increasingly become a problem. Single-use masks are polluting the waters, and with a lifespan of 450 years, the effects cause more harm than good. 

Using multiple disposable masks, aside from hospital personnel, is not only unnecessary, but hurtful to the environment. There are more sustainable alternatives such as cloth reusable masks, or biodegradable ones, which are thicker. 

Science Department Chair Colleen O’Rourke said, “For our everyday lives, cloth masks are more than sufficient.” 

This so-called “COVID-waste” is a large contributor to plastic pollution. “The second that I saw people were wearing disposable masks, that aren’t reusable many times, the first thing I thought of, where are those going to end up? They will end up right where the plastic water bottles did. Same problem” noted Michael O’Brien, AP Environmental Sciences teacher. 

To ensure the safety of marine life after use, people should cut the ear straps, recycle the metal nose piece, and throw away the remaining fabric. These extra steps keep seagulls out of harm’s way from being either choked or rendered immomible.

Recently, during quarantine, people also began sewing their own masks reducing the impact of major industry production, which follows the three R’s in terms of sustainability: Reduce, reuse, recycle. 

As O’Brien said, “The only person you can truly change is yourself. Hopefully, we can change others by awareness.” 

Change isn’t possible unless everyone holds each other accountable. Polluting the Earth only accelerates the short timeline, roughly seven years, before the effects of climate change are irreversible.