A ‘concerning amount’ of PPE litter has been left discarded on Scotland’s beaches.
According to a marine-life charity who organised a nationwide beach clean, several masks and plastic gloves had to be removed.
The Marine Conservation Society held their annual Great British Clean, with almost 400 volunteers heading to nearly 100 beaches throughout the country.
As the charity introduced measures to ensure beaches could still be cleaned and surveyed in accordance with guidelines, it also asked volunteers to record face masks and plastic gloves for the first time.
This year’s results are supported by inland data collected by volunteers embarking on the charity’s Source to Sea Litter Quest.
Face masks and gloves were found on almost a quarter of Scottish beaches cleaned by Marine Conservation Society volunteers over the week-long event.
The inland Source to Sea Litter Quest data shows a similarly worrying presence of masks and gloves, with more than two thirds of litter picks across the UK finding PPE items.
Lizzie Prior, Great British Beach Clean Coordinator at the Marine Conservation Society said: “The amount of PPE our volunteers found on beaches and inland this year is certainly of concern. Considering masks were only made mandatory a matter of months ago, the spike in their presence on our shores is worrying.
“Whilst we continue to battle with the ongoing presence of other single-use litter, PPE pollution cannot be part of our new normal.”
Like many other single-use items, disposable face masks and gloves pose a threat to wildlife on land and at sea.
Marine animals could mistake face masks and gloves for prey, filling their stomachs with materials which will not break down and could prove to be fatal.
Animals also risk being entangled in the straps of face masks, with seabirds’ feet pictured recently being wrapped in the elastic strings.
Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer at the Marine Conservation Society said: “So much avoidable plastic waste is still being produced and discarded on Scotland’s shores, eventually ending up in the ocean.
“The Scottish Government’s Single-Use Plastic Consultation, which is open now, is a fantastic opportunity to make your voice heard and tell the government what single-use plastic items you want to see banned. Scotland is leading the charge in introducing a Deposit Return Scheme but the work is certainly not over.”