In 2020, approximately 52 billion masks were produced during the COVID-19 pandemic. 1.6 billion of those masks ended up in our oceans according to a new study.
The report by OceansAsia, a marine conservation group based in Hong Kong, estimated that masks contributed 5,500 tons of plastic pollution to the oceans.
Allegedly, this pollution is equal to 7% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The garbage patch is an accumulation of plastic waste double the size of Texas.
Shortly after the pandemic began, masks were being produced in China at a rate of 450 million a day. These disposable masks will take around 450 years to decompose, according to a report from Visual Capitalist.
While mask use has decreased in the last few months, the new mask mandates raise concern for pollution.
Companies have begun searching for a solution to this issue, preferably a method to recycle masks after use.