Report: more than 1.5 billion face masks will end up in the world’s oceans by the end of 2020

According to a Hong Kong-based environmental group, more than 1.5 billion disposable face masks will find their way into the world’s oceans this year, polluting the water with tons of plastic and endangering marine wildlife.

The group, OceansAsia, said that the masks will both contaminate oceans with plastic and harm already vulnerable marine wildlife. The report stated:

“The number of masks entering the environment on a monthly basis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is staggering. From a global production projection of 52 billion masks for 2020, we estimate that 1.56 billion will enter our oceans in 2020, amounting to between 4,680 and 6,240 metric tonnes of plastic pollution.”

The report added:

“These masks will take as long as 450 years to break down and all the while serve as a source of micro plastic and negatively impact marine wildlife and ecosystems.”

In late February 2020, OceansAsia visited a remote beach on Tai A Chau in the Soko Islands, south of Lantau, Hong Kong. On a typical visit, the team would expect to encounter one or two face masks along with piles of other plastic pollution.

However, on this trip, 70 masks were found spread along a 100 m stretch of the beach. This occurred about six weeks after the widespread adoption of mask-wearing in Hong Kong due to COVID-19. The team continued their regular visits to the beach.

The following week, there were 30 new masks and with a least a dozen masks found on each subsequent visit. On November 27th, when the report was going to press, two OceansAsia volunteers collected another 54 masks over the course of one hour from the original test beach.

OceanAsia’s report wrote:

“Single-use face masks are made from a variety of meltblown plastics and are difficult to recycle due to both composition and risk of contamination and infection. These masks enter our oceans when they are littered or otherwise improperly discarded, when waste management systems are inadequate or non-existent, or when these systems become overwhelmed due to increased volumes of waste.”

The group said that a “conservative” calculation means at least three percent of them will be washed out to sea. The report said:

“This plastic does not ‘go away,’ but rather accumulates, breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces. Annually, it is estimated that marine plastic pollution kills 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, over a million seabirds, and even great numbers of fish, invertebrates, and other marine life.”

It added:

“Plastic pollution also profoundly impacts coastal communities, fisheries, and economies. Conservative estimates suggest it could cost the global economy $13 billion USD per year and lead to a 1-5% decline in ecosystem services, at a value of between $500 to $2,500 billion USD.”

The report also highlighted the various animals that have died due to masks. For example, in September, a penguin was found dead on a Brazilian beach with a mask wrapped up inside its stomach. The local marine conservation organization, Instituto Argonauta said in a statement:

“The consequences of the large number of people who frequented the beaches of the North Coast of São Paulo on the extended holiday of September 7th may have cost the life of a Magellan penguin, whose cause of death is linked to a mask that was found inside his stomach.”

OceansAsia’s report offers solutions:

“Action at every possible level is needed to address the serious threat posed by marine plastic pollution. When possible, individuals should choose to wear reusable masks and masks made from sustainable materials.”

It added:

“Masks should always be disposed of responsibly. In general, individuals should strive to reduce their consumption of unnecessary single-use plastic, purchase from companies that offer these alternatives, and encourage other companies to reduce their use of plastic.”

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Florida governor extends order banning local governments from enforcing mask mandate violations

November 27th, 2020

FLORIDA – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently extended the September executive order that prohibits enforcing fines for individuals who violate COVID-19 mandates such as individuals not adorning face coverings in designated areas. 

The extension has caused some pushback from elected officials in various cities, according to reports, likening the order as a de facto permission to flout measures aimed at protecting public health. 

According to the Sept. 25 executive order from Gov. DeSantis, cities can not force restaurants to operate at a capacity less than 50 percent. 

Furthermore, for any restaurant compelled by local government to operate at a capacity lower that 100 percent, local authorities have to detail the following: 

  • Quantify the economic impact of each limitation or requirement on the
  • Explain why each limitation or requirement is necessary for public health

Also with the September order, section four notes that issuances of any fines related to COVID-19 violations must be suspended: 

“This order, consistent with Executive Order 20-92, suspends the collection of fines and penalties associated with COVID-19 enforced upon individuals.”

On Nov. 24, Gov. DeSantis extended the order, effectively suspending the collection of fines issued by local governments to individuals who violate COVID-19 restrictions. 

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith is among those critical of the executive order, saying: 

“Now local leaders feel handcuffed because Governor DeSantis signed an executive order saying that they were not allowed to enforce their own mask mandate. Governor DeSantis needs to lead or he needs to get out of the way.”

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is also urging Gov. DeSantis to afford localities control again when it comes to enforcing pandemic-related mandates: 

“We are concerned. The numbers are moving in the wrong direction. While reports we get as far as hospitalizations aren’t at a point where our hospitals are being stretched thin, if our numbers continue to climb, I don’t think that situation isn’t going to remain.”

The Florida League of Cities, a consortium composed of hundreds of cities and localities that collaborate on legislative endeavors, mirrored sentiments related to allowing local governments to enforce pandemic mandates stating: 

“We believe the governor should allow cities to take the actions they believe are necessary to protect their citizens. When our state and local governments work together, we are better equipped to manage this public health crisis.”

One effort that local elected officials seem to carry a consensus on is that they’d like to see Gov. DeSantis adopt a statewide mask mandate. 

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Gov. DeSantis has been a focal point of ire from his critics lately, especially with regard to what has been coined the “anti-mob” legislation.  

Critics of Florida ‘anti-mob’ legislation coin it as trying to ‘outlaw’ protests – it’s not even close (op-ed)

Nov. 22, 2020

JACKSONVILLE, FL – Florida Governor Rick DeSantis’ recently crafted “anti-mob” legislation has become a target of criticism – resulting in protesters gathering outside Jacksonville courthouse to claim an attack on the First Amendment

Except, that characterization couldn’t be further from the truth.

Law Enforcement Today reported back in September, when this proposed legislation was first taking form. The basic understanding of said legislation is to inhibit criminal conduct during protests.  

Essentially, increasing penalties for acts such as rioting and assaulting police officers, were featured in the September unveiling and the latest additions to the proposal

Paul Bennett was among the protesters outside the Jacksonville courthouse, clinging to the alarmist interpretation that the “anti-mob” bill is something akin to stifling the right to protest peacefully: 

“We have the right to protest, we have the right to say how we feel about things. That should not be taken away.”

Ben Frazier was among those carrying that sentiment during the demonstration at the courthouse when interpreting the legislation: 

“We think it is an attempt on the governor to strict and materialize the most basic right in the Constitution — the First Amendment right: to assemble and protest. We think it is despicable the governor would bring this to the table.”

Frankly, there’s nothing in the current proposal – even with some of the amendments added – that in any way restricts people’s right to assemble peacefully. 

One area that is also drawing criticism is the expansion of what is considered to be a forcible felony where private citizens can utilize force to thwart those acts

Apparently, the fact that language within the potential legislation would afford defensive force by private citizens to stop looting is being conflated with violating the First Amendment or promoting vigilantism. 

Denise Georges, a former Miami-Dade County prosecutor, was among those critics alleging the aforementioned. When speaking to the Miami Herald about the legislation, Georges said: 

“It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions…It also allows for death to be the punishment for a property crime – and that is cruel and unusual punishment. We cannot live in a lawless society where taking a life is done so casually and recklessly.”

But, to be frank, the summer of rioting and looting that spanned throughout numerous cities is not a form of protesting or exercising the First Amendment. 

Furthermore, for Georges to disregard that this very summer was the epitome of a “lawless society” while admonishing the concept of private citizens’ using force to stop acts of looting and vandalism of their businesses is a soft approval of looting, rioting and vandalism. 

When lending an honest observation to crimes such as looting and vandalism that have taken place during the numerous riots of 2020, it’s becomes painfully obvious that malefactors have learned that these acts can essentially go unpunished when executed under the veil of a “protest.”

Even though looting, rioting and vandalism are illegal and pose ramifications from the justice system, it’s rather difficult to round up the looters. 

Investigators have been working these cases for months-on-end trying to track down suspected looters and the ilk – but the arrest of the suspects (if ever accomplished) does little to nothing in terms of restorative justice for the victims. 

The number one deterrent to criminal actions is the threat of immediate repercussions. So an expansion on private citizens’ ability to use force on miscreants looting and destroying their businesses and private property is actually a good thing.  


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Author: Jenna Curren

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I'm awesome! What else would I say about myself.