Face masks, gloves and other articles of Personal Protective Equipment have become such a normal part of our every day routine. But these safety items are ending up all across our state and causing serious harm.
“There’s been an increase certainly in seeing PPE everywhere on the sides of streets, parking lots and very unexpected places,” explained Syma Ebbin, the Research Coordinator for CT Sea Grant.
Whether intentional or by mistake, PPE and the harmful plastics they are made of are ending up everywhere. And, Ebbin is working hard to understand the dangers this poses.
“Plastic doesn’t biodegrade,” said Ebbin. “So it breaks down, it gets smaller but it still retains it’s identity as a plastic. So that’s why it’s particularly problematic.”
Research has shown that 80% of litter that gets discarded on our land ends up in the water. Plastic is the main component of marine debris.
“Unfortunately, these plastics are breaking down and actually getting into food webs,” says Ebbin. “Into human food webs which is quite traumatic.”
The loops on masks are also proving to be dangerous to animals. Earlier this week, a seagull was rescued by the CT Audubon Society after getting entangled in a discarded facemask.
Mike Gilman, the co-owner of Indian River Shellfish, has seen first hand how abundant plastic is in our local waterways and how dangerous it can be.
“I have physically removed balloons off of fish that were drowning in front of us,” said Gilman. “So we just figured lets try to get the community out there. And do some beach clean up.”
Indian River Shellfish is encouraging residents to be “selfless for shellfish” and started a clean up contest yesterday to celebrate Earth Day, and the competition will continue into this weekend.
“If they can clean up the beaches and get some of the garbage out of there that’s there every day it would be great for everybody,” says Gilman.
Prizes in the form of fresh oysters and clams will be given to a number of participants and there will be different categories like most unique trash found. To enter, all you have to do is post you photos on Facebook and tag Indian River Shellfish CT.