More needs to be done to stop the use of disposable masks as they’re causing ‘enormous’ plastic waste, the government has been warned.
The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have urged ministers to do more to promote reusable face coverings.
Lib Dem climate and business spokeswoman Sarah Olney told the BBC: "It's clear that single-use face masks are creating an enormous amount of waste.
“Outside of essential clinical settings, there are plenty of environmentally friendly, reusable alternatives that people can choose to use.”
Deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Amelia Womack, added there was a danger disposable masks would be “normalised”.
Plastics contained in the single-use masks can pollute water and cause wildlife to become sick and entangled.
The use of disposable masks has increased after they became mandatory in public transport and inside shops in the UK.
In England, people are advised to get face-coverings that are reusable and the government is also considering safe ways to reuse personal protective equipment (PPE).
It also recommended people get rid of disposable masks in the correct way but hundreds of thousands of single-use masks are still ending up outside.
Eco-charity Surfers Against Sewage claim businesses have been relying on single-use plastics to deal with the ongoing pandemic.
The group, based in St Agnes, Cornwall, added items of PPE have been found washed up on beaches across the region.
Now, they plan to name and shame the companies whose waste is repeatedly being found in the water.
Surfers Against Sewage spokesman Jack Middleton said: "Since lockdown has started to be lifted we've witnessed a new wave of plastic pollution littering our beaches in the form of disposable masks and gloves.
“While the PPE has helped to save lives over the past few months, we now need to consider how we dispose of it properly to prevent it from flowing into our rivers and oceans and destroying our beaches.”
On 5 September, the group launched The Generation Sea: Plastic Protest to encourage individuals to take action against plastic pollution.
During the scheme, which will run until 18 October and will see 600 litter picks, the group will also be naming and shaming wayward companies.
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