Since the lifting of lockdown restrictions earlier this year, the Final Straw Foundation has noticed a rise in the number of face masks and disposable gloves being littered in city streets to being chucked out of vehicles and floating onto the seafront.
The charity has been doing what it can – collecting up discarded face masks in hotspots around the Portsmouth region – but is being overwhelemed by the careless littering.
CEO and founder of the Final Straw Foundation, Bianca Carr, said: ‘We have revisited one particular stretch of shoreline on Hayling Island a few times since lockdown lifted, and we regularly pick up at least 5-10 single-use masks from the high tide line and in the vegetation by the beach.
‘This is new since the pandemic started and is probably only a tiny indication of the actual numbers of these items that are in the sea.’
The charity has been campaigning in association with The News since 2018, in a bid to cut down on the region's single-use plastic waste.
Hotspots for litter are typically the busy pedestrian areas such as Commercial Road in Portsmouth, or busy roads such as Eastern Road.
With disposable PPE becoming the norm, and likely to be a part of our lives for some time, the charity is gravely concerned about the environmental impact this could have in the long-term.
Director of operations Lissie Pollard said: ‘We are also noticing a lot more disposable gloves littering our countryside and beaches.
‘Just this last week we picked up over 500 plastic gloves from near a petrol station that is very close to Langstone Harbour, which is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation.
‘This is unacceptable and we have to act now. Three-hundred years from now the Covid-19 pandemic will be ancient history, but these items will still be floating around in our seas and endangering wildlife.’
The Final Straw Foundation, which recently became a registered charity, is urging people to stop using the single-use disposable masks and switch to reusable ones.
Bianca added: ‘Try to use a reusable mask if possible that you can just wash, it cuts down on so much waste.
‘Just wash your hands regularly or use hand gel.’