Face masks unearthed on International Coastal Clean-up Day

PETALING JAYA: Every year, an international clean-up of coastal locations brings up the usual suspects – plastic bottles, cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic pieces and bottle caps.

This year, there was an additional category – masks and gloves, out of which 1,109 pieces were recovered from the International Coastal Clean-up (ICC) Day on Sept 19.

One mask too many: Tengku Zatashah showing a used face mask found during the ICC Day clean-up at Pantai Morib in Banting.One mask too many: Tengku Zatashah showing a used face mask found during the ICC Day clean-up at Pantai Morib in Banting.

Selangor Princess Tengku Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, who joined the clean-up, said this year’s ICC took on a different meaning for her as the Covid-19 pandemic had brought about more litter in the form of masks and gloves.

“Even as we are battling this deadly virus, we should remember to care for our environment and always dispose of our trash responsibly, ” she said.

Waste experts have estimated that at least 10 million single-use face masks are used and discarded daily in the country.

This year’s clean-up saw almost 11,000kg of rubbish removed from 70 coastal locations nationwide.

A total of 24,493 plastic beverage bottles, 21,007 cigarette butts and 15,280 pieces of plastic were collected during the clean-up, which was coordinated by non-profit group Reef Check Malaysia (RCM).

Some “unusual” items found included a carpet, a fibreglass boat and a liquid gas cylinder.

The rubbish collected was later taken away by local councils or waste management contractors to be disposed of.

The ICC is the world’s biggest annual volunteer effort to protect the oceans, with millions of people worldwide gathering to collect trash along beaches and record information on the types of trash collected.

A total of 3,424 volunteers participated in the clean-up, significantly less than previous years because of the Covid-19 situation.

RCM programme development manager Theresa Ng said a concerted, multi-pronged effort by various stakeholders was needed to address the issue of marine debris.

“We simply cannot keep cleaning up our beaches and oceans. We must prevent waste from escaping or leaking into our environment in the first place, ” she said.

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