The COVID-19 pandemic led to a still ongoing international health and sanity crisis. In the current scenario, the actions taken by the national authorities and the public prioritized measures to control the transmission of the virus, such as social distancing, and face mask-wearing. Unfortunately, due to the debilitated waste management systems and incorrect disposal of single-use face masks and other types of personal protective equipment (PPE), the occurrence of these types of items has led to the exacerbation of marine plastic pollution. Although various studies have focused on surveying marine coasts for PPE pollution, studies on inland water are largely lacking. In order to fill this knowledge gap, the present study assessed PPE pollution in the Iranian coast of the Caspian Sea, the largest enclosed inland water body in the world by following standard monitoring procedures. The results concerning the density (1.02 × 10−4 PPE/m2) composition (face masks represented 95.3% of all PPE) of PPE are comparable to previous studies in marine waters. However, a notable decrease in the occurrence of PPE was observed, probably to behavioral and seasonality reasons. The possible consequences of PPE pollution were discussed, although much more research is needed regarding the ecotoxicological aspects of secondary PPE contaminants, such as microplastics and chemical additives. It is expected that face mask mandates will be eventually halted, and PPE will stop being emitted to the environment. However, based on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 scenario, several recommendations for coastal solid waste management are provided. These are proposed to serve during and after the pandemic.
- Face mask