Coronavirus: Discarded Safety Face Masks Pollute Hong Kong's Beaches


Coronavirus has become the reason behind the increase in pollution and waste in China and Hong Kong. The single-use face masks is a matter of concern.

Written By Yash Tripathi | Mumbai | Updated On:

Reportedly, Coronavirus pandemic is responsible for the decrease in China's overall pollution rate, especially air pollution due to the shut down of companies and factories. This has contributed to the environment in unexpected ways in context to pollution. However, despite the reduction in the nitrogen oxide in the air which is amongst the main reason for air pollution, the increase in plastic waste and sea waste is still posing a threat to the environment in China. 

Littered face masks become a reason for an increase in pollution in China

Source: Ocean Asia Instagram

Many people around the world thought that the outbreak of COVID-19 and people quarantined in their homes will contribute to the decrease in the pollution rate of China. However, this seems to lead up to another pollution concern altogether. Some people who wear single-use face masks litter around public places with these used masks. This is posing as a pollution threat to public places, especially beaches, gardens and streets.

In Hong Kong's beaches, gardens and other public places, discarded face masks are accumulating on a large scale. This has led to an increase in plastic pollution and is especially posing a threat to marine life. As per many environmentalists, the litter generated by novel Coronavirus pandemic has added in the growth of marine pollution and ocean acidity. 

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A post shared by OceansAsia (@oceansasia) on

The supply of face masks started just 6-8 weeks ago in the city to prevent the expanse of COVID-19 in Hong Kong. However, in just a few weeks, the entire beach has been filled with littered single-use face masks. As per latest reports, the number of people using single day masks is 7.4 million. The number of people infected in the country is more than 125. 

The main concern for many environmentalists is that the use-and-throw masks are not disposed of properly. This has led to an increase in waste in the countryside as well as the sea, which is now filled with thrown masks everywhere. Environmentalists are concerned that fishes and other aquatic animals consume such wastes and are dying because of it.

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A post shared by PFS (@plasticfreeseas) on

In an interview with a popular news portal, the Environmental group, 'Plastic Free Seas' spoke about the pollution of beaches that are following the Coronavirus outbreak, they said: "We have only had masks for the last six to eight weeks, in a massive volume... we are now seeing the effect on the environment."


A post shared by OceansAsia (@oceansasia) on

Gary Stokes, the founder of the environmental group Oceans Asia, also spoke about the effects in the interview. He said that in the process of saving themselves from the hazardous virus, people are littering the environment without thinking about others, which he thinks is an act of selfishness. He further elaborated that it is not only about pollution in the country. The littered single-use masks might contain viruses of many kinds, especially Coronavirus. This can also lead to the expanse of COVID-19 amongst the citizens.

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(with inputs from agencies)

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