As many as 102 million single-use facemasks are currently being thrown away every week across the UK.
The North London Waste Authority (NLWA) says this shocking side effect of the coronavirus pandemic is “creating a huge new plastic pollution problem” and is launching a campaign to encourage people to switch to reusable alternatives.
It found 70% of people who wear disposable facemasks did not know they are made out of single-use plastic.
The NLWA also highlights an additional health issue brought about by the way the masks are used and disposed of – nearly 18% of the public wrongly think disposable masks should be placed in the recycling bin after use, a misconception which is leading to contamination issues at recycling facilities.
Chair of North London Waste Authority, Councillor Clyde Loakes, said: “The progress we’ve all made in reducing our reliance on single-use plastics is at risk of being undone during the pandemic, and disposable facemasks are a major culprit.
“They are not made of paper, they are not recyclable and whether they are binned or littered they will damage the environment. Today we are urging people to keep doing their bit to help tackle the climate emergency by switching to reusable masks, which offer just as much protection as disposables.”