Occurrence of personal protective equipment (PPE) associated with the COVID-19 pandemic along the coast of Lima, Peru

Gabriel E. De-la-Torre, Md Refat Jahan Rakib, Carlos Ivan Pizarro-Ortega, Diana Carolina Dioses-Salinas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations

Abstract

The use and disposal of face masks, gloves, face shields, and other types of personal protective equipment (PPE) have increased dramatically due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many governments enforce the use of PPE as an efficient and inexpensive way to reduce the transmission of the virus. However, this may pose a new challenge to solid waste management and exacerbate plastic pollution. The aim of the present study was to report the occurrence and distribution of COVID-19-associated PPE along the coast of the overpopulated city of Lima, Peru, and determine the influence of the activities carried out in each study site. In general terms, 138 PPE items were found in 11 beaches during 12 sampling weeks. The density was in the range of 0 to 7.44 × 10−4 PPE m−2. Microplastic release, colonization of invasive species, and entanglement or ingestion by apex predators are some of the potential threats identified. Recreational beaches were the most polluted sites, followed by surfing, and fishing sites. This may be because recreational beaches are many times overcrowded by beachgoers. Additionally, most of the PPE was found to be discarded by beachgoers rather than washed ashore. The lack of environmental awareness, education, and coastal mismanagement may pose a threat to the marine environment through marine litter and plastic pollution. Significant efforts are required to shift towards a sustainable solid waste management. Novel alternatives involve redesigning masks based on degradable plastics and recycling PPE by obtaining liquid fuels through pyrolysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number145774
Pages (from-to)145774
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume774
DOIs
StatePublished - 20 Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Beach
  • Coronavirus
  • Gloves
  • Mask
  • Microplastics
  • Pollution

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