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PPE Is Protecting Us From COVID-19 — And Creating A Problem For The Environment

Touam (Hervé Agnoux)
Wikimedia Commons
Discarded Mask

Personal Protective Equipment has helped keep us safe from the coronavirus. But now it’s littering streets and making its way into oceans. 

Volunteers with the Pacific Beach Coalition have been cleaning up beaches in Pacifica for almost 25 years, and tracking what they collect. During the pandemic, the waste they’ve found has largely changed from cigarette butts and food wrappers — to an overwhelming number of discarded masks, wipes, and gloves.


When these plastic products make it into the ocean, animals can get tangled up, or even eat them thinking they’re food. 


While it’s important to continue wearing PPE, volunteers are advocating for proper disposal of single-use items. They also say one small thing you can do to help wildlife in case your mask ends up in the ocean, is to cut the loops before you throw it away. 

Originally from the East Bay, Vivian began working in radio at KZSC in Santa Cruz. After KZSC she hosted a show at New York radio station Radio Free Brooklyn, covering artists and art local to NYC. As a KALW intern, she works on news and stories local the Bay Area. Outside of the radio station, she loves to visit galleries and museums and go on hikes.