Sun readers can now recycle their masks in 488 Morrisons supermarkets across the country in special Sun branded bins, provided by ReWorked, a company who specialise in the collection and recycling of harder to handle materials such as masks.
According to the Sun, leading experts have warned Britain will suffer a generation of environmental damage that could go on beyond our lifetimes, because of people throwing away millions of Covid masks, as new statistics show more than 100 million single-use masks are thrown away each week.
Up to 1,500 tonnes of plastic a month ends up in landfill, where it will take an estimated 450 years to decompose, but more worryingly a large amount of masks are dropped on the ground and end up in our woods, beaches, rivers and seas affecting the ecosystem and wildlife which will wreak havoc on our environment for years to come.
Sun readers have already started to change their habits in an effort to become more green, say the publishers. In 2019 The Sun commissioned a reader survey which found 82% of Sun readers wanted to become more green in their daily habits, with 89% most worried about plastic pollution, but unaware of how best to tackle the issue.
Victoria Newton, editor-in-chief of The Sun said: “We’ve launched Mask Force to help Sun readers in their goal to become more green after they told us their fears about the impact we’re having on our planet and environment. We wanted to create an easy and affordable way for Sun readers to make everyday changes in their lives which will benefit the planet and help stop the damage masks are causing to the environment. Masks are still absolutely necessary to help control the spread of coronavirus and we encourage people to keep wearing them, but we are seeing a worrying rise in recyclable masks and PPE being dumped and ending up on our great British beaches and in rural areas, destroying the landscape as well as hurting wildlife.
As well as launching Mask Force, we'll also be running a series of articles and features from experts about the impact masks have had on our planet, helping our readers to digest and understand the issues around PPE and plastics."
Mask Force has been backed by Lucie Donlan, Bear Grylls, Gaby Roslin, Jeremy Clarkson, Ben Fogle, and Dr Ranj as well as RSPCA, SeaLife, City To The Sea and The Wildlife Trusts.
Lucie Donlan said: "It's awful to see poor animals going about their daily life that we are harming with covid pollution like these plastic masks. Animals are eating them and then starving as they can't digest their food.
"Something like The Sun's Mask Force bins in Morrisons should have come sooner. People can make dropping off their masks part of their weekly routine - just like reusing bags for shopping.
"I want my children to have the chance to connect with the environment like I have, but if we don't take care of our planet that won't happen."
Bear Grylls said: “Single-use masks are one of the biggest litter problems we have right now, with 100 million masks being thrown away each week. The ones that end up on the floor or in our ocean can damage our amazing wildlife and planet which is incredibly sad. The Sun's Mask Force campaign with Morrison's is a great way to make sure we turn the things that protect those around us into something useful at the end of their life."
Dr Ranj said: "Face masks are one of the simplest tools we have to keep each other safe from coronavirus, but as their use increases, we realise their potential to harm our planet. Using one of The Sun's Mask Force boxes in your local Morrisons store helps you to take care of our environment while keeping safe and gives the single use masks a new lease of life."
Sun Readers will be able to dispose of their masks easily in recycling bins found at the entrance area of every Morrisons store.
David Potts, CEO of Morrisons, said: "The pandemic has had a significant effect on the people of our country. But it has also had a significant effect on the production of waste and a detrimental effect on our countryside and wildlife. We need to work together to clean up. We felt it was our duty to join forces with The Sun and ReWorked to provide facemask recycling facilities and hope the public will make full use of this great initiative."
Izzie Glazzard, ReWorked Marketing Manager said: "After seeing predictions that there are now more disposable facemasks in the ocean than jellyfish, we knew action on PPE waste was desperately needed. We are working with The Sun & Morrisons to make mask recycling accessible to everyone. There's no excuse for this plastic waste to continue disrupting fragile ecosystems in the UK."
RSPCA Chief Executive Chris Sherwood said: “Sadly, carelessly discarded PPE is becoming as commonplace a sight as other litter, so we warmly welcome the Sun’s campaign for used face masks to be recycled. Litter is one of the biggest hazards our wildlife faces today and the pandemic has just added to the problem with millions of disposable masks just being discarded. These are a new danger to animals and the RSPCA has been called out to rescue animals - including ducks, geese and gulls - caught up in the masks’ elastic straps. Our staff deal with thousands of incidents every year where animals have been impacted by litter - and they’re the ones that we know of. I’m sure for every animal we’re able to help there are many that go unseen, unreported and may even lose their lives. We urge people to help protect animals by disposing of their used face masks responsibly, using the dedicated recycling bins where possible.”
Joan Edwards, director of policy at The Wildlife Trusts, says: “Our wonderful wild places are too often treated like a dumping ground. The Wildlife Trusts look after more nature reserves than there are branches of McDonald’s and we’re concerned at the increase in littering because it risks polluting these special places and countless others – as well as injuring wildlife. We all have to work harder together to find ways to reduce the impact of human behaviour on struggling wildlife on land and at sea. We encourage people to love and look after our countryside, reserves, beaches and parks, and to take all rubbish home to dispose of responsibly. That’s why we’re supporting Mask Force’s plan to recycle masks – it’s a great idea!"
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