Personal protective equipment (PPE) pollution associated with the COVID-19 pandemic along the coastline of Agadir, Morocco

Mohamed Ben Haddad, Gabriel E. De-la-Torre, Mohamed Rida Abelouah, Sara Hajji, Aicha Ait Alla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The increasing use of personal protective equipment (PPE) as a sanitary measure against the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has become a significant source of many environmental risks. The majority of the governments enforce the use of PPE in public areas, such as beaches. Thus, the use and disposal of PPE have compromised most solid waste management strategies, ultimately leading to the occurrence of PPE polluting the marine environment. The present study aimed to monitor the PPE pollution associated with COVID-19 along the coastline of Agadir, Morocco. In parallel, the influence of the activities carried out in each sampled beach before and after the lockdown break was reported. Overall, a total number of 689 PPE items were identified, with a mean density of 1.13 × 10−5 PPE m−2 (0–1.21 × 10−4 PPE m−2). The majority of the PPE items found were face masks (96.81%), out of which 98.4% were surgical masks and 1.6% were reusable cloth masks. The most polluted sites were the beaches with recreational activities, followed by surfing, and fishing as the main activity. Importantly, PPE density increased significantly after lockdown measures. Additionally, the discarded PPE sampled in the supralittoral zone was higher than PPE recorded in the intertidal zone. This confirms that PPE items are driven by the beachgoers during their visit. PPE items are a source of microplastic and chemical pollutants, a substrate to invasive species colonization, and a potential threat of entanglement, ingestion, and/or infection among apex predators. In the specific case of Agadir beaches, significant efforts are required to work on the lack of environmental awareness and education. It is recommended to improve beach cleaning strategies and to penalize incorrect PPE disposal. Additional alternatives may be adopted, as the involvement of biodegradable materials in PPE manufacturing, recycling through pyrolysis, and encouraging reusable and washable masks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number149282
Pages (from-to)149282
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Glove
  • Marine
  • Mask
  • Microplastics
  • Plastic
  • Waste


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