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Surgical masks pile up on Hong Kong beaches

A B.C. resident working with an ocean conservation team monitors trash on Soko Islands. Researchers have started to see an increase in the number of discarded surgical masks washing up on Hong Kong beaches since the COVID-19 pandemic started at the end of 2019.

OceanAsia is a non-profit organization focused on marine issues including organized crime involving sea creatures. Researchers have noticed a large number of surgical masks washing up on the Soko Islands – a group of islands off the coast of Hong Kong.

Soko Islands are only accessible via boat and the beaches are continuously covered in piles of garbage. The researchers of OceanAsia have been doing plastic inspections on the beach every few weeks in an attempt to monitor the source of the trash and figure out how it ends up there.

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Even if people properly dispose of the masks, it will not solve the garbage issue on the Soko Island beaches.

At the end of February, a colleague picked up 70 surgical masks in a small stretch of the beach in one day. This was around 6 weeks after the virus started to spread rapidly in the region and there was a cultural shift to more people using masks regularly. Most of the masks being used are made of polypropylene which is a type of plastic that takes a long time to break down and can end up coated in toxins.

Aside from the masks ending up on the beaches, they are being ingested by porpoises and other sea animals. This is one of the environmental effects of COVID-19 and the flaws in waste management

Even if people properly dispose of the masks, it will not solve the garbage issue on the Soko Island beaches. There are around 80-million pieces of plastic that end up in the oceans on a daily basis.

For more information about this story, click here.


Learn how to stay safe by enrolling in a mask fitting test which is a requirement for many workplaces and school admissions or check out our available masks for sale by visiting our face mask sale page.

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