The government has been urged that people be asked to do more to switch from disposable masks to reusable cladding.
The Liberal Democrats said that single-use surgical masks cause “heavy” plastic waste and that environmentally friendly alternatives should be promoted.
And the Green Party wants ministers to push the media to show them less, so that their use can be “normalized”.
Disposable masks contain plastic that pollutes the water and can harm wildlife that eat or get entangled in them.
The UK government said it was investigating whether personal protective equipment (PPE) could be “reused in safe ways”.
To help prevent the spread of coronaviruses, face coverings – disposable or reusable – are now mandatory on public transport, in stores, and in some other enclosed locations in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The rule only applies to public transport in Wales, but will be extended to shops and other indoor locations from Monday.
The latest figures from Britain for the Office for National Statistics suggest 96% of adults who left their homes and covered their faces last week.
The official guidance for England is to wear a reusable, washable where possible.
It also states that disposable face coverings are used – often containing plastic polypropylene – to be placed in a “black bag” waste compartment “or litter compartment if you are outside”.
It adds that people should not “put them in the recycling bin because they cannot be recycled through traditional recycling facilities” and “take them home … if there is no litter bin – they should be used as litter Do not skip “.
But with the public being asked to cover their faces, environmental groups say hundreds, thousands, even single-use masks are being blown into the street, in cities and rural areas.
As part of its Great British Beach Clean, which runs from 18 to 25 September, the Marine Conservation Society is asking volunteers to record how much they raise.
Laura Foster, head of the Clean Seas Organization, said: “Just look at rivers like the Thames and you’ll see them floating.
“When they are full, wildlife get entangled in them or are about to ingest plastic. They are not going to biodegrade either, although they will break down, introducing more microplastics into the ocean and the food chain.”
The RSPCA is encouraging people with disposable masks to “cut bandages” after using them to catch animals.
The Liberal Democrats are calling on UK ministers to do more to “encourage people to use reusable masks as well as provide guidance on how best to keep them clean” Huh.
Climate and trade spokesman Sarah Olney told the BBC, “As we face the Kovid-19 crisis, we all want to do our bit to keep others safe. Wearing a face covering is an important part of that. , But it should not cost the earth.
“It is clear that single-use face masks are generating a significant amount of waste. Outside of the necessary clinical settings, there are plenty of environmentally friendly, reusable options that people can choose to use.”
Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, said the boom in the use of disposable masks “came at a time when we are clearly drowning in plastic”.
She called for “strong government guidance”, with the public potentially asked to wear coverings “if the epidemic continues”.
While Ms. Womack said the media should be discouraged from showing masks in “normal”, non-clinical, situations, she also argued that the government should ban its websites, leaflets and films.
A government spokesperson said: “Our priority is to safeguard public health, but the government and the NHS are actively looking at how PPE can be reused, including refinement.”
He said: “We have published guidance on how to dress and cover clothing and how to safely dispose of PPE.
“In the next few months, we are considering how we can inform the UK’s long-term PPE utilization strategy in the future, keeping environmental concerns in mind.”
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