Disposable face masks plea by Plaid MS

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales MS has expressed his concern that disposable face masks are being dumped without care after finding more than 100 items of litter on a small stretch of beach near Rhyl.

The clean-up was part of the Marine Conservation Society’s annual beach survey and, because of Covid-19, meant there were only two people at a safe distance rather than the usual 30 volunteers conducting the litter pick.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales MS, accompanied Clare Reed of the Marine Conservation Society during the clean-up. They found 107 pieces of litter over a 100m stretch of beach.

They included disposable face masks, cigarette butts, plastic and polystyrene pieces as well as bottle caps. 

Mr Gruffydd said: “Disposable face masks are a new phenomenon and are currently littering streets, parks and beaches. It doesn’t make sense to me that someone would take the effort to wear a mask for safety and then so casually discard it and cause a health risk if it was picked up by a child. 

“Although this was a limited clean-up due to the circumstances, it was alarming to find such a high level of plastic waste on one of our many stunning beaches. 

“If this was replicated around the 870 miles of Welsh coastline, we’re talking of 1,400,000 pieces of litter. It’s a shocking statistic and I’m sure individuals can play their part in clearing up when they visit the beach. The wider issue of plastics in our seas and rivers also needs addressing.”

Clare Reed said: “We are so pleased that Llyr could join us for the Great British Beach Clean this year to help to clean and survey one of his local beaches. Although medical waste only makes up less than 1% of the litter we normally find, it is likely that the percentage will be higher this year due to discarded PPE such as disposable facemasks, and we will be looking at these results closely.  

On this beach in particular, we found number of plastic bottle caps and lids, as well as single use plastic items. This really shows that more needs still needs to be done to change consumer behaviour. That is why we are calling for a Deposit Return System for drinks containers in Wales, and a ban on single use plastic items where alternatives are readily available.” 

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