According to reporting from Reuters, face masks used to protect from coronavirus are now clogging beaches in Hong Kong.

The 7.4 million people that live in Hong Kong have been using masks daily to protect themselves from the coronavirus that has affected over a hundred thousand people across the globe. Three people in Hong Kong have died from the virus.

Instead of being thrown into trash cans, many masks have found their way to beaches and trails, where they harm marine life and add to an already growing ocean waste problem. Gary Stokes, the founder of the environmental group Oceans Asia, told Reuters, “We only have had masks for the last six to eight weeks, in a massive volume … we are now seeing the effect on the environment.”

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Stokes said he found 70 discarded masks in a 100 meter stretch of beach. Environmental groups are trying to clean up the masks, many of which are made of plastic and will not break down efficiently.

In protecting ourselves from coronavirus, we must also protect our oceans and throw away masks into the trash where they belong. Tracey Read, founder of the group Plastic Free Seas in Hong Kong recommends putting your mask in the trash when you’re finished using it.

Using a mask is important during coronavirus outbreaks but the sooner we end this crisis by following CDC guidelines like social distancing, the less mask waste we will all be left with.

Read more about protecting yourself from coronavirus. Check the CDC website for more information on how to protect yourself and check our latest article to learn how COVID-19 differs from the flu.

Scientists believe that the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus, started at an exotic animal market in Wuhan, China. You can help stop the incidence of viruses like these by signing this petition to ban the wildlife trade.

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