Covid masks adds to pollution inland and on beaches – Greenpeace
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Cape Town - There has been an increase in pollution as a result of Covid-19 masks.
Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, Nhlanhla Sibisi, said that last year when Greenpeace South Asia was doing research on plastic pollution it discovered a lot of masks lying around beaches.
“That is when we discovered that pollution of masks increased. The more products get used the more they are discarded,” said Sibisi.
They also noticed a significant and marked reduction in air pollution due to lockdown regulations globally, including South Africa, he said.
“This is mainly related to scaled-down economic activities that tell us that our economies (including South Africa – considering its reliance on coal) are very much coupled and dependent on fossil fuels.
“We are now back to where we were before the pandemic as major polluters have ramped up their operations under the guise of ’revamping economic growth’ whereas it is more about the bottom line – profits.
“A fossil-fuelled economic system will forever lead to more and heightened air pollution leading to a climate crisis – which we are already experiencing.
“What is needed is for global emissions to be curbed, in line with the Paris Agreement and Science-Based Trajectory, we need to shift away from fossil-fuelled energy (coal, gas, oil) to cleaner and sustainable energy – renewable energy,” he said.
Environmentalist Elma Pollard said she has never come across biodegradable masks in this country.
“Environmentally-aware people use re-usable masks, we don’t use once-off things, which of course, creates waste.
“Medical masks normally get incinerated with medical waste in hospitals. Now so many people wear these medical masks which creates waste. It’s definitely problematic.
“The problem comes with disposable masks, people should use reusable masks, well reusable everything,” said Pollard.
A mask manufacturer said that the disposable masks are not biodegradable.
“We suggest that people cut it up when done with it then dispose of it. However, we do motivate them to wash it. It does change the fibre but it still protects.
“Some people even put it in the oven at a certain temperature and it kills the virus. We are trying to move to cotton masks now,” said the manufacturer.