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The Forgotten Effect of the Pandemic on the Environment

By: Della Lin

The pandemic has led to an increased demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) in recent years. PPE can include gloves, face shields, and most importantly, face masks. The main culprit is single-use PPE like disposable masks and latex gloves. While these can benefit us as it provides protection from the virus, animals can be harmed in the process. As we sometimes discard our PPE incorrectly, animals can get tangled up in masks and trapped in gloves. This is considered to be a deathly threat to our wildlife. 

When animals become tangled or entrapped in masks and gloves, they are weakened. Similarly, when animals accidentally ingest plastic, they can begin to starve. In these instances, the animal can end up being killed. A report by a Hong Kong marine conservation group OceansAsia estimated that 1.56 billion face masks had entered the ocean in 2020. Also, the Marine Conservation Society found PPE litter on one-third of beaches in the U.K. in their annual clean-up effort. The amount of waste from the pandemic is getting out of control at this point. 

However, there are many simple everyday tasks that we can do to help resolve this problem. Using reusable masks can reduce waste. Cutting gloves and the straps of our masks before throwing them away can reduce the chances of an animal being harmed or entangled. Many researchers have concluded that ​​“people may suffer from the coronavirus pandemic, but nature is getting sick of our plastic.” This environmental disaster could still be present for years and maybe generations to come. Therefore what is beneficial to humans can be very dangerous for other animals. We are the only ones who can help out these animals!