COVID-19 litter destroys Animal life ... 3 million masks are used every minute

in Deep Dives2 years ago (edited)

The result of the Corona epidemic (Covid-19) is the increase in the production of single-use facial masks, gloves, and other personal protective tools mostly prepared from plastics that are difficult to recycle or dispose of safely without any environmental damage.

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Compilation of 256 images of PPE litter from Vista, CA, USA. Photograph by Janis Selby Jones.
QuoteCitation: Animal Biology 71, 2 (2021) ; 10.1163/15707563-bja10052

The masks and gloves are mostly made from polypropylene fabrics, as well as elastic filaments that can be a significant risk to wild animals by twisted with their limbs or can be a trap that prevents animals from moving or the risk of eating it by animals,

3 million masks are used every minute

According to a report published February 28 from "Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering", 3 million masks are used every minute during the Covid-19 pandemic, mostly the one-time type.
The website "" which is interested the plastic pollution in the aquatic environment, published a report indicating that nearly 1.5 billion masks drifted into the ocean in 2020.
These statistics have made environmentalists aware of this risk and have found that this pollution disaster is not only limited to land but also extends to the marine environment.

and these are some of the environmental effects recorded for of Covid-19 garbage

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Animal Biology published a new study on March 22. where scientists from Netherlands universities document the deadly effects of Covid-19 garbage on animals in their natural environment.

The team of scientists searched in the Internet and social media and collected reported observations on animal interaction and the remnants of personal protective tools since the beginning of the Corona pandemic.

The team found a chick stuck in one of the gloves, which led to his death, and also found birds using Covid-19 garbage in their nests, and other dead bird as a result of stuck with threads of the mask, and a seagull trying to live with a mask thread around his leg, and other birds unable to remove the mask from their claws or beaks.

They also found bats, hedgehogs, and crabs all stuck with masks and gloves, some trying to adapt to a new situation that they could not get rid of alone, while the other part was dead.
Sometimes animals accidentally eat plastic, such as the Spheniscus magellanicus, which was found dead on a Beach in Brazil while swallowing a mask later found in his stomach.

The researchers believe that these unintended mistakes that we notice in animals can also be made by humans, noting in their study that a 6-year-old child swallowed parts of a blue face mask that had been accidentally baked into a McDonald's chicken piece.

Collecting of COVID-19 garbage observations

In order to continue collecting data and raising awareness of the issue of covid-19 pollution, researchers have created a website ( that enables people to share their own observations about this horrific phenomenon, in the hope of finding effective ways to address it, especially since the Covid-19 garbage scattered by land and sea will decompose into micro-plastics and will remain in the environment for hundreds of years.

Date of observationDate of online reportCountrySpecies namePPE itemObservation
110-04-202023-04-2020CanadaAmerican robin (Turdus migratorius)Face maskEntangled
2Unknown14-04-2020PolandSparrow sp. (Passer sp.)GlovesNest material
3Unknown11-05-2020U.S.A.Cat (Felis catus)GloveIngested
403-06-2020This paperThe NetherlandsCommon coot (Fulica atra)Face maskNest material
518-06-2020This overviewGermanyWhite tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)Face maskEntangled
6Unknown01-07-2020FranceCommon octopus (Octopus vulgaris)Face maskOther: hiding
719-07-202019-07-2020U.K.Gull sp. (Laridae sp.)Face maskEntangled
819-07-202024-07-2020U.K.Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinusFace maskEntangled
9Unknown22-07-2020U.K.Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)Face maskEntangled
10Unknown22-07-2020U.K.European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeusGloveEntangled
1131-07-202031-07-2020U.S.A.Checkered pufferfish (Sphoeroides testudineus)Face maskEntangled
1202-08-2020This paperThe NetherlandsPerch (Perca fluviatilis)GloveEntangled
1324-07-202005-08-2020U.S.A.Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)Face maskIngested
14Unknown07-08-2020U.K.Gull sp. (Laridae sp.)Face maskCarrying
1511-08-202011-08-2020U.K.Gull sp. (Laridae sp.)Face maskCarrying
1611-08-202011-08-2020U.K.Gull sp. (Laridae sp.)Face maskCarrying
1731-08-202001-09-2020U.K.Gull sp. (Laridae sp.)Face maskCarrying
18Unknown05-09-2020U.K.Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)Face maskIngested
1906-09-2020This paperThe NetherlandsCommon coot (Fulica atra)Face mask and gloveNest material
20Unknown14-09-2020ItalyMute swan (Cygnus olor)Face maskOther: playing
21Unknown20-09-2020ItalyMallard (Anas platyrhynchos)Face maskEntangled
22Unknown23-09-2020Unknown, possibly North-AmericaEastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus)Face maskOther: unknown
2323-09-202023-09-2020FranceShore crab (Carcinus maenas)Face maskEntangled
2423-09-202023-09-2020FranceShore crab (Carcinus maenas)Face maskEntangled
25Unknown29-08-2020UnknownDogs (Canis lupus familiaris)Face maskOther: playing
2611-09-202015-09-2020BrazilMagellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus)Face maskIngested
2730-09-2020This overviewU.K.Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)Face maskIngested
28Unknown09-10-2020UnknownCanada goose (Branta canadensis)Face maskEntangled
29Unknown10-10-2020The NetherlandsSerotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus)Two face masksEntangled
3020-10-202023-10-2020The NetherlandsEuropean hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)Face maskEntangled
3130-10-202030-10-2020MalaysiaLong-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis)Face maskOther: chewing
32Unknown24-11-2020U.K.Dog (Canis lupus familiarisFace maskIngested
3320202021U.K.Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)Face maskEntangled
3401-01-202104-01-2021The NetherlandsGull sp. (Laridae sp.)Face maskEntangled
3501-01-202107-01-2021The NetherlandsDog (Canis lupus familiaris)Face maskIngested
3623-02-202123-02-2021CanadaHerring gull (Larus argentatus)Face maskEntangled
37Unknown09-03-2021PhilippinesCoral sp.Face maskEntangled
3804-03-2021This overviewItalyYellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis)Face maskIngested
3906-03-202107-03-2021The NetherlandsMallard (Anas platyrhynchos)Face maskEntangled
4022-03-2021This overviewThe NetherlandsCrow (Corvus corone)Face maskIngesting
4127-03-2021This overviewU.S.A.Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)Face maskEntangled
42Unknown2020U.K.Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)Face maskEntangled
4302-04-202103-04-2021BelgiumOystercatcher (Haematopus longirostrisFace maskOther: carrying
4403-04-2021This overviewThe NetherlandsWestern jackdaw (Coloeus monedula)Face maskOther: carrying
4504-04-2021This overviewThe NetherlandsCommon coot (Fulica atra)Face maskNest material

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Finally, researchers believe that individual awareness of this disaster must be raised, as it can be somewhat controlled on a personal level by cutting masks tapes and cutting gloves at least before getting rid of it.



Thanks for the post, definitely another side effect of this pandemic that can't be ignored. I do have a probably dumb question (I have plenty of those...): this garbage that ends up hurting or even killing animals, is it only due to people not disposing of it properly, or can it also be caused by overflowing landfills for instance, even when it's disposed of the way it's supposed to be?