As Hong Kong overwhelmingly embraced face coverings to fight the coronavirus, conservationists report face masks are now washing up on beaches in growing quantities. The conservationists say the face masks on the beaches are adding to already alarmingly high levels of plastic waste surrounding Hong Kong.
“The single use face mask are just another additional burden for the beaches, OceansAsia, told reporters.
Shortly before the global pandemic struck, OceansAsia launched a year-long study looking at marine debris. Also microplastics found on one of Hong Kong’s uninhabited islands.
The five most commonly found items were; bottles, polystyrene packaging, lighters, disposable cutlery and straws.
Now face masks are floating onto Hong Kong’s beaches
During a recent visit, conservationists counted and removed 70 masks from a 100 meter stretch of beach. A week later, another 30 masks had washed up. “Ever since society started wearing face masks they are now being seen on the beaches,” OceansAsia reports.
Hong Kong’s 7.5 million inhabitants produce six million ton of waste each year, also only 30 percent is recycled.
Prior to the coronavirus, Hong Kong residents often wore face masks on the daily commute. Especially during the winter flu season. Hong Kong residents have been cautious of germs since the outbreak of SARS in 2003.
But the emergence of the deadly Covid-19 disease has made mask wearing near ubiquitous.
Despite its proximity to mainland China, the city has largely managed to defeat the virus. With just over 1,000 infections and only four deaths.
Now a growing number of companies are now offering reusable masks. The government has also launched an initiative to send all residents a fabric mask that can be washed. But disposable masks remain by far the most popular choice.