The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and mask mandates rolled out by governments worldwide have caused an “exponential increase” in face mask pollution, comprehensive research based on data collected in 11 countries suggests.
The damning study by a team of researchers with the University of Portsmouth was published in the Nature Sustainability journal on Thursday.
The group conducted a comprehensive study of personal protective equipment (PPE), observing an “exponential increase” in such litter amid anti-coronavirus measures. Their findings are based on data collected across 11 countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, the UK, and the US, using a litter collection application Litterati.
The research spans 14 months, with September 2019 figures used as the baseline. Covid-related litter began to grow at alarming rates in March 2020, when the spread of the virus turned into a full-blown global pandemic, with governments worldwide introducing various restrictions, including mandatory face mask-wearing.
“Overall the study shows the impact that legislating the use of items such as masks can have on their occurrence as litter. We found that littered masks had an exponential increase from March 2020, resulting in an 84-fold increase by October 2020,” Dr. Keiron Roberts, lead researcher with the University of Portsmouth, said.
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