Anti-virus face masks plague Hong Kong’s beaches

FILE PHOTO: People wear protective masks following the outbreak of a new coronavirus, during their morning commute in a station, in Hong Kong, China February 10, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

Surgical masks are washing up in growing quantities on the shores of Hong Kong, a city that has overwhelmingly embraced face coverings to fight the coronavirus.

Conservationists say the masks are adding to already alarmingly high levels of plastic waste in the waters around the finance hub.

“The single use plastic mask is just another additional burden that we are leaving behind for the future generations on the beach,” Gary Stokes, co-founder of OceansAsia, told AFP.

Shortly before the global pandemic struck, the Hong Kong-based environmental NGO launched a year-long study looking at marine debris and microplastics found on one of the city’s more remote and uninhabited islands.

The five most commonly found items were bottles, polystyrene packaging, lighters, disposable cutlery and straws.

Now masks are floating onto beaches and shorelines.