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Opération Mer Propre (Operation Clean Sea) is looking to raise awareness toward "the beginnings of a new type of pollution" in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as discarded masks and gloves have been littered on the seabed, BBC News reports.
The group's founder, Laurent Lombard, shared underwater footage of the PPE floating off the seaside resort of Golfe-Juan on France's Côte d'Azur, writing, "Knowing that more than 2 billion disposable masks have been ordered, soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the waters of the Mediterranean."
The ever-growing concern of increased plastic pollution comes as countries around the world are beginning to ease lockdown restrictions. Back in February, OceansAsia highlighted a surge in surgical masks being found during a research trip to the Soko’s islands in Hong Kong. "We have found 70 discarded masks within 100 metres of the beach and an additional 30 masks when we returned a week later," Gary Stokes, founder of OceanAsia, told Energy Live News. Over time the team has seen the odd mask here and now, however this time they were all along the high tide line and foreshore with new arrivals coming in on the current.
The issue with these masks in relation to plastic pollution is that these items slowly break down into tiny pieces called micro-plastic, which could be consumed by a variety of marine life, and possibly become lodged in their digestive system, leading to their death. This may be a graphic depiction, but it's an honest portrait of what can happen when someone carelessly decides to dispose of their used masks and gloves in the ocean.
Like masks, latex gloves are also a micro-plastic that can stick around forever, with bright colors endlessly tempting seagulls, turtles, and more into believing it could be food.
In late March, Maria Algarra started #TheGloveChallenge to call out people in the U.S. leaving their gloves all over the place.