Animal charity, RSPCA, has urged the nation to ‘snip the straps’ of disposable face masks after staff received an increasing number of reports of animals becoming tangled in them.
Since lockdown began in March, the charity has received 938 calls involving wildlife caught in litter, most recently concerning a gull whose leg had become so entangled in the straps of a face mask, it had caused swelling. The bird made a full recovery after treatment from an RSPCA officer.
🚮As the #GBSeptemberClean kicks off, we are urging everyone to ‘snip the straps’ from disposable face masks! We’ve dealt with 900 incidents of animals caught in litter since the start of lockdown- including animals tangled in face masks. @KeepBritainTidy: https://t.co/e1vCXdTWne pic.twitter.com/4YP9iwvQ5L
— RSPCA (England & Wales) (@RSPCA_official) September 12, 2020
The RSPCA’s chief executive Chris Sherwood has likened the ‘snip the straps’ campaign to its ongoing initiative asking the public to cut plastic rings that hold cans together.
“We are keen to get out the message that the same should be done for face masks too – as very sadly, animals are susceptible to getting tangled up in them”, explains Sherwood.
“Now that face masks are the norm, and may be for some time to come, this message is more important than ever as thousands of these masks are being thrown away every day.
“We’re concerned discarded face masks could become a significant hazard, particularly to wild animals and birds.
“Our RSPCA officers have had to rescue animals from getting tangled in face masks and we expect that this may go up as time goes on, so the best thing to do is to simply cut the elastic ear straps in half before throwing it away.”
Political parties have also warned of other negative effects of disposable masks on the environment, encouraging the nation to use reusable masks instead. The current official guidance in England is to wear a reusable, washable face mask where possible.
Disposable masks contain polypropylene, which is a plastic that cannot be recycled and must be disposed of as general waste. Recent research from the University College London Plastic Waste Innovation Hub team has revealed that 66,000 tonnes of plastic waste will be created if everyone in the UK uses a single-use face mask each day for a year.