A BEACH cleaning volunteer is concerned disposable face masks could become the new wave of plastic pollution on the region's beaches.
Photos shared to the Beach Patrol 3280/3284 Facebook group showed two disposable masks washed up in front of Warrnambool Surf Lifesaving Club, only one week into mandatory mask wearing for the region.
Beach Patrol 3280/3284 co-leader Colleen Hughson said it was "disturbing" to see single-use masks already appearing on beaches such as Lady Bay.
"There is already masks coming up to beach and if they are washing up they could have been dropped on the street, gone down a drain and they are starting to appear in the environment," she said.
"It's disturbing to see on Facebook that birds have got strangled from the elastic while there have been fish found with masks tangled around them.
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"It is a worldwide problem with disposable masks already appearing in our beaches and waterways."
Ms Hughson said it was a problem Melbourne-based Beach Patrol groups were already dealing with.
An estimated 194 billion disposable masks and gloves are being used worldwide every month as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study in Environmental Science and Technology.
Most single use PPE is made from a variety of plastics, including polypropylene, polyethylene and vinyl.
Ms Hughson said people should seriously consider more sustainable masks.
"Try and get hold of reusable ones as that's the best option because with the single-use masks people go through heaps using them every time they go out," she said.
"Try to keep disposable masks for people who need them for work and everyone else should get hold of a reusable one."
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