We are facing one of the biggest disasters in our lifetime nowadays called coronavirus outbreak. Every single human being on earth is affected by the condition whether they are the direct victims of the virus or receiving the collateral damages from it.
On the other side, nature seems to do better than us. it is recovering from the damages we gave faster than ever, and in some parts of the world it started to take over our civilization. However, it seems like the good side only happens in some particular cases.
The fact that we make more trash during self-quarantine period and that we consume much more self-protection and sanitation items is contributing more destruction to the biggest part of our nature. What part is it? The ocean.
Here in this article we are going to report how coronavirus outbreak affects our ocean ecosystem, and in some ways, it might not look so good for our future.
Especially this year, the number of people going to the beach decreases a lot, because most countries in the world still do not allow their citizen to at the beach for safety purpose. However, in some other countries, people are already allowed to go to the beach with strict safety measure.
Talking about ocean pollution from the beach, we must talk about how tourists often throw away plastic waste into the water. Sunscreen bottles, food wraps, and other plastic items brought by them often don’t follow them back to the cities.
With reduced number of visitors, there must be less such kind of pollution going to the ocean. Indeed, that’s true, because less visitors means less plastic waste. This might be the time for beach cleaning operation to finally clean up beaches from what visitors left during their visit.
However, in this case we are not talking about sunscreen bottles and food wraps. There are new kinds of plastic waste discovered during coronavirus outbreak which terrorize ocean ecosystem, and it is directly affected by the outbreak.
Conservationists have found disturbing amount of ‘Covid waste’ in the ocean, and huge amount of it has already reached ocean floor. The term is used to mention direct link between these ‘new items’ with current global pandemic.
So, what kind of items that the conservationists found? French non-profit organization Opération Mer Propre mentioned stuffs which are trending during this coronavirus outbreak. Items such as disposable masks, latex gloves, and bottles of hand sanitizers were found during a diving activity they conducted.
These items found mixed with ‘regular’ ocean waste that can already be found before. It means that the new waste came when there are already so much waste in the water. So, if you think that nature’s self-restoration affects the ocean very much, you have to think twice.
Even though the quantities of disposable masks and latex gloves found by conservationists were still far from disturbing, but it sparked a new horror for them. it is a subtle hint of new kind of pollution that our ocean going to face from now on.
“It’s the promise of pollution to come if nothing is done,” Joffrey Peltier of Opération Mer Propre told The Guardian. In addition to that, with growing self-assurance among people to consume more single-use items to avoid coronavirus contact, Peltier hinted that the monster might grow bigger faster than expected.
All around the world, disposable masks, latex gloves, and hand sanitizers are the most trusted items for avoiding coronavirus transmission. Looking on how disposable masks and gloves are meant to be disposed after several uses, both can be the biggest threats for our ocean in the future.
More Disposable Masks Than Jellyfish
As long as the vaccine that works effectively to prevent coronavirus has still not been discovered, most of us would still rely on protection given by disposable masks and latex gloves. And this is not an individual choice, but rather global decision.
France alone has ordered two billion disposable masks to protect citizens of the country from the virus. All of those covid waste are meant to be used only a few times before thrown away but the user, and definitely it cannot be recycled recklessly.
When all those disposable masks are thrown away, it might find a way to get into the ocean like what conservationists already witnessed. “Knowing that, soon we’ll run the risk of having more masks than jellyfish in the Mediterranean,” said Laurent Lombard of Opération Mer Propre.
Sounds terrifying? Indeed, it is. The discovery tells a message that even though we want to protect themselves, we cannot do it recklessly. Another thing that we should notice is that nature’s self-restoration cannot work when human do more destruction in faster pace.
13 million tons of plastic goes into oceans each year already, according to an estimation made by UN Environment in 2018. And during this pandemic, environmentalists projected that the number will skyrocket if we don’t pay good attention to our plastic consumption.
450 Years For Covid Waste
Your disposable mask might seem harmless. It even protects you from the thing you avoid the most during this period. However, disposable mask you buy and wear while going out, is one of the most threatening items for ocean creatures.
The reason is because disposable masks stay for a very long time before they can degrade themselves. “With a lifespan of 450 years, these masks are an ecological timebomb given their lasting environmental consequences for our planet,” said Éric Pauget, a French politician to The Guardian.
In line with Pauget, Gary Stokes from OceansAsia also mentioned that if we keep on consuming disposable mask and throw it away recklessly, the indirect effects of coronavirus pandemic will last for generations.
“It’s just another item of marine debris. It’s no better, no worse, just another item we’re leaving as a legacy to the next generation,” he said. The mask can only reach the ocean by irresponsible waste management, and we are the ones who must manage the covid waste by ourselves.
Thus, it is our job to prevent further disaster to come. Changing to reusable cloth mask that you can wash after use is one of the options, and it would make your life far simpler because you don’t have the responsibility to dispose your mask very properly.