Earth is Not Disposable: COVID-19 Used PPE Threatens Our Environment


The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the polluting of the world’s oceans and landfills, with single-use masks and gloves winding up there after use. In many cases, PPE is not properly disposed of.

Sahika Ercümen, a Turkish dietitian and world record holder free-diver, dived for Maritime and Cabotage Day on July 1st at Turkey’s Bosphorus near Istanbul, and served pictures of the pandemic pollution on her Twitter account. She said “We were planning to dive for Maritime and Cabotage Day but it turned to a waste dive” and underlined the importance of protecting our seas besides our health.

Photo Credit: @sahikaercumen via Twitter

The world faces an increasing widespread problem – properly disposing of disposable masks and gloves after use. Some organizations are taking notice and drawing attention to this key issue.

Per Vanity Fair, Gary Strokes, co-founder of Oceans Asia, said “We’ve found masks on beaches all around Hong Kong.” When surveying the area in February 2020, it was clear that more single-use masks were washing up from the oceans, leading to concerns that marine life would try and eat the masks, causing serious health issues, including death. He added “We’ve seen whales and dolphins washing up with plastic bags inside their guts” and fears the same will happen with masks.

The Los Angeles Times reported that British photographer Dan Giannopoulos has started documenting discarded gloves on the streets as part of a longer-term art project around the extraordinary time of COVID-19. The artist explained what made him document the gloves, with him wanting to showcase the streets of the United Kingdom in order to spotlight a growing concern of many: used PPE waste piling up everywhere around us, causing longer-term issues beyond the virus itself.

Photo Credit: Dan Giannopoulos

We must find a sustainable way to protect our oceans and our wildlife from disposable plastics, masks and gloves. Otherwise, we will have surrendered to the waste of these disposable items – and it will be too late to save the world’s environment.