The use of protective masks and gloves has increased significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, due to improper disposal and careless behaviour, many of these single-use items end up in the streets, in nature, but also in our seas and oceans.
This trend could potentially increase the spread of the virus. Improper waste treatment and disposal of potentially infected masks and gloves pose a serious threat of secondary disease transmission, especially to waste and health workers. Besides, littering these single-use items may well worsen another global issue: plastic waste pollution. Face masks are not made of paper, but polypropylene, and cannot be recycled. They need to be visibly collected in containers set up for proper disposal.
Unfortunately, now that the lockdown restrictions are being progressively lifted in several countries, some consumer behaviors and illegal littering are becoming again an alarming and frequent issue. In France, people already receive a €68 fine for littering in the streets or in nature. Furthermore, authorities suggest increasing the fine to €300 in an attempt to limit these irresponsible societal actions and their negative impact on the environment.
Waste Free Oceans supports the €300 fine proposal for littering. Good environmental behaviour and worldwide anti-litter regulations supported by such fines are necessary to ensure no waste makes its way to our oceans.