Environmental campaigners are urging people to extra mindful of single-use plastics after a dead puffin was found tangled in a facemask on a beach.
The photo was posted by the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT), with a warning that “someone's thoughtlessness” had led to a sad end for the bird.
Campaigners are warning that the global plastic crisis has only gotten worse through the pandemic, with many Irish seabirds now often found with plastic in their bellies – sometimes causing them to starve.
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IWT spokesman Padraic Fogarty told Newstalk that disposable facemasks are inherently dangerous to wildlife.
“We see that facemasks, because they have these little stringy bits on the sides of them, are particularly threatening to marine life,” he said.
“A bit like the plastic rings on beer six-packs.”
Lyndsey O’Connell from the Sick of Plastic campaign says the use of paper cups, plastic glasses, and disposable masks since the start of the pandemic is adding to the growing litter problem.
“We can’t eat indoors so a lot of the food that we are given and we are taking away is covered in all of this single-use, poor-quality packaging that only ever ends up in an incinerator or in a land-fill,” she said.
Marine plastic remains an extremely serious problem for marine life around the world with seabirds, fish and mammals at times mistaking it for food and eating it.
Fishing nets make up the largest portion of the discarded plastic choking up our seas; however, single use items continue to be a major problem.
Around 303 million tons of new plastic waste is created every year and, up to now, around three-quarters of all the plastic ever created has become waste.
Without major change, the build-up of plastics in our oceans is expected to triple by 2040.
Campaigners are urging people to dispose of any facemasks or pandemic PPE they may be using in secure bins.
Anyone using disposable face masks is also urged to snip the ear loops with scissors before putting them in the bin.
Reporting from Mairéad Cleary and Michael Staines