The recent coronavirus pandemic has caused too much harm. Responsible for a shocking (and still increasing!) number of deaths globally, its social implications are obvious, health being the most serious. The virus has also resulted in many secondary implications, of which there are too many to name, but, for example: economic recession. Ask anyone what’s the worst thing about Covid 19, they’d tell you many things, but I bet you’ve never heard, the environment (unless you’ve got a really environmentalist friend).

The environment is suffering in more ways than we realise because of this virus. Today we’d like to explore this one thing: masks.

The increasing need to wear masks, whether mandated or voluntarily, has significantly increased the amount of plastic waste. Gary Stokes, from the conservation group OceanAsia, discovered 70 masks on a 100m long beach in Hong Kong, and just a week later, another 30 landed on shore. The French organisation, Operation Mer Propre, also sounded similar concerns regarding there being “more masks than jellyfish”. 

The implications of such disposable masks is evident in its marine pollution it is creating. This poses potential risk of plastic ingestion by marine species, resulting in trophic level harm to the marine ecosystem. With a life span of about 450 years, masks are an ecologically timebomb, considering its lasting environmental damage. To further exacerbate that process will only result in increased greenhouse and toxic gas emissions in order to chemically degrade plastics. 

Have we stopped and wondered just how many masks have been disposed of? Let’s do some simple calculations. Let’s say 50% (though based on personal experience I highly doubt it) of our Singapore population uses disposable masks, and maybe say, 50% of them go out daily (I am underestimating this number). That’s already 1.4 million masks disposed A DAY, in SMALL Singapore. Now multiply that for a few months, and if that still doesn’t shock you, consider the rate of mask use GLOBALLY.

It’s a huge number no doubt, and it is necessary that we become more aware of our environmental damage even in this time of pandemic. The pandemic has given us an unusual opportunity to create a greener world, creating benefits such as cleaner air and lower emissions. Let this not be a waste to our crucial opportunity for sustainability.



Edmond, C. (2020) How face masks, gloves, and other coronovirus waste is pollution our ocean. Accessed 18 July, 2020. Available at:

Kassam, A. (2020) ‘More masks than jellyfish’: coronovirus waste ends up in ocean. Accessed 18 July, 2020. Available at: