(FiveNation.com)- Discarded disposable COVID masks and various other peoples of personal protective equipment (PPE) are reportedly polluting San Francisco Bay. Reports suggest that the COVID protective equipment is starting to cause a problem as the city begins to see the first bouts of rain for the winter season.
On Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle warned that while the first rain of the season was good news for the drought and wildfire problems, it’s causing a new problem of “gobs of face masks flooding San Francisco Bay.”
The outlet explains how early season storms usually sweep in debris from the streets into the rivers, bays, and creeks. This year, that waste included all the “usual gunk” as well as a lot of discarded PPE.
“This influx of safety scraps into waterways is tough to quantify,” the outlet said. “However, the California Coastal Commission offered at least some idea of the volume: The agency said there was so much PPE during this year’s September volunteer coastal cleanup and inventory that it had to create a new category for masks and gloves.”
For environmentalists, this is a nightmare. It’s a nightmare for local wildlife, too, given that PPE is typically made of non-recyclable materials like rubber and plastic. The waste is not likely to decompose any time soon, and poses a choking threat to animals and could disrupt various habitats if not fully removed by cleanup teams.
It’s a problem that is unlikely to go away any time soon, however, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in California. As cases go up, so does PPE usage, and so the vicious cycle continues.
Perhaps the fresh lockdown imposed by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom might serve one purpose, at least. Fewer people on the streets, owing to the 10 pm curfew that will remain in place for a month, means fewer people discarding masks in the streets also.
David Lewis, executive director of the conservation group “Save the Bay,” told the Chronicle that there’s “so much COVID trash.”
“People might think it’s just a little trash and it’s unsightly, but it’s actually having an environmental impact,” he added.
The state of California could be heading toward a chaotic winter this year, with fresh lockdowns, PPE flooding the bay and harming wildlife, the ongoing impact of the wildfires that swept across the state during the summer, and rolling blackouts caused by the state’s premature switch to solar and wind power.