Over 25,000 tons of pandemic-related plastic waste have polluted the global ocean, according to a study published in the journal PNAS on Monday.
Since the start of the pandemic, the world has generated over 8 million tons of related waste. Hospitals generate much of this waste and it accumulates on beaches and coastal sediments, Axios reported.
PNAS reported plastic waste poses a major threat to marine life and ecosystems. The researchers of the study said the coronavirus only increased the demand for single-use plastic “intensifying pressure on this already out-of-control problem.”
“The released plastics can be transported over long distances in the ocean, encounter marine wildlife, and potentially lead to injury or even death,” the researchers wrote in PNAS. “The plastic debris could also facilitate species invasion and transport of contaminants, including the COVID-19 virus.”
A recent study showed 1.56 million face masks entered the oceans in 2020, causing a long-term risk to the bodies of water, Axios reported. Additionally, there have been oddities as a protective mask found in a dead penguin’s stomach in Brazil and another report revealed fish trapped in a medical glove.
PNAS said the study’s findings “reflect the need to improve medical waste management mechanisms, especially in developing countries,” according to the researchers. Plastic pollution in oceans and other bodies of water could more than double by 2030, per an October assessment by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Recycling won’t cut it anymore, the report found. “It is vital that we use this momentum to focus on the opportunities for a clean, healthy and resilient ocean,” UNEP executive director Inger Andersen said in a statement.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: SACBEE.COM
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