Those masks we all must wear appear to be papery and fragile, but they are actually a huge new addition to the stream of plastic waste in the environment, and they are resilient. They are everywhere.
That’s the message from a Maple Ridge man who is beginning a new initiative to both retrieve used PPE, and keep it out of the environment in the first place.
Michael Seymour has seen the masks on local trails as he walks in his neighbourhood, and even in nature, and decided to do something about it. He and his family spent a weekend picking them up, and they recovered 185 masks. Now he’s taking a more global approach.
Seymour is uniquely qualified to get the message out, as a career television producer and digital media manager whose work has appeared on CNN, A&E, The Golf Channel and more. He has built an impressive website for his new project called “The Great Mask Cleanup” at maskcleanup.ca, where he outlines the challenge and offers solutions to the problem, using strong visuals and his “Team Up to Clean Up” slogan.
Seymour talks about how millions of people are being told to use face masks, but little guidance is being offered on how to choose them, and how to dispose of PPE safely. He said they can be found “floating like jellyfish” in oceans.
“The masks are already there – they were there before the pandemic. PPE is nothing new, it’s just now you and I have to use it too.”
“And as countries begin to lift lockdown restrictions, billions of masks will be needed each month globally. Without better disposal practices, an environmental disaster is looming,” he said. “The majority of masks are manufactured from long-lasting plastic materials, and if discarded can persist in the environment for years to come.”
His goal is global awareness of The Great Mask Cleanup, with an emphasis on volunteers and donations. Seymour has solicited support from Home Depot and other stores in the community, and also from Maple Ridge service clubs. Now he is recruiting volunteers to do neighbourhood cleanups, and is soliciting donations for the charitable organization. He is the executive director, and said the funds will be put toward cleaning materials such as bags and grabbers, and education. He plans to create a video library of 90-second videos offering solutions to this problem.
“Our goal is to get as many Earth Heroes as possible to cleanup a location of their liking and inspire others while staying safe,” he said. “Personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, and face shields have kept humans safe through the coronavirus pandemic. However, the items are having the opposite effect on the planet.”
Seymour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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