Environmental groups say personal protective equipment winding up in ocean

Local News

They’re the newest necessities to get through the pandemic: personal protective equipment. 

But if you’re not careful with your face masks and gloves, they may end up in the ocean. 

“We’re so used to focusing on single-use plastics from the restaurant industry, and it’s this new thing now,” said Sustainable Coastlines Executive Director Rafael Bergstrom. 

“I walked along the Ala Wai last week and saw gloves and masks in and around the canal, and the mouth of it at Magic Island,” he explained. 

When PPE is discarded in public, it ends up clogging drains and washing into the ocean, which can affect marine wildlife. 

“We never want to see litter of any type. It’s sad. This pandemic, it’s such a big crisis. People are going through so many emotions. To add litter into the mental effects of it, it’s not something we want our community to have to deal with,” said Bergstrom. 

Picking up litter would be the right thing to do. 

If you see discarded face masks, shields, gloves or other personal protective equipment, Bergstrom says “yes it’s great when you’re doing a clean-up, but if you are going to pick up stuff that may have germs on them, make sure you’re protected.” 

He wants to spread awareness of the dangers of discarded PPE winding up in our oceans. 

“Nobody is going to go home and think, ‘I have the right to litter.’ We can stop these things before it ever becomes marine debris, or beach litter. We don’t wanna be cleaning up beaches for the rest of our lives, or the streams. The more we can do to communicate with each other, we can stop it before it starts.”

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