The measures taken by the human population to protect itself from COVID is making the environment an unwilling participant in the pandemic.
Masks are a key tool in the battle to contain the virus, with the disposable option favoured by many given the perception they provide greater protection than the material version.
With such a large volume of disposable masks being used, the inevitable leak of used masks making their way into the environment has occurred.
Colleen Hughson from Warrnambool's Beach Patrol, a group dedicated to keeping our beaches clean, said her team was finding disposable masks among the beach waste.
"Masks are turning up regularly at our clean-ups," Ms Hughson said.
"It is not just here, we are part of a wider network which includes people cleaning beaches all the way to Melbourne and everyone is finding the same thing.
"I don't think people are being careless and deliberately throwing their masks on the ground but because of the large volume there is always going to be some that get away."
"It can be as simple as people going to put a mask in their pocket and it falls out without them knowing or if they have it on just one ear and it falls off and blows away.
"It's not just the disposable ones, we are also finding some material masks as well."
Ms Hughson said disposable masks can be washed and re-used, with this a way of reducing the number of masks in circulation.
She said the main concern with masks in the ocean was around the elastic straps.
"The biggest danger to marine life with the masks are they get tangled in the elastic straps," she said.
"When you throw a disposable mask in the bin, if people can remember to get the straps off that would reduce the risk if somehow the mask does find its way onto the beach."
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