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Have you ever noticed facemasks littering the streets? They’ve become a part of day-to-day life, but where do they end up? It’s estimated that around 1.5 billion facemasks entered the oceans in 2020! And it’s not just masks. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made a lot more plastic for different uses.

We wanted to find out how much extra plastic waste there is due to the pandemic. We also wanted to find out how much enters the ocean, and where it eventually ends up. 

We used data from lots of different sources to work out how much extra plastic has been made for the pandemic. We then used scientific models to work out how much of this plastic ended up in rivers and then the ocean. We found out that over 8 million tons of extra plastic waste has been made globally due to the pandemic. Over 25,000 tons of this has entered the ocean, where it can harm marine wildlife.

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About this article

Summary of research
Researchers wanted to find out how much extra plastic waste from the pandemic has entered the ocean.
Reading level
Scientific field
Key words
NGSS standards
AP Environmental science topics
IB Biology topics
Scientific methods
Type of figure
Location of research
Scientist Affiliation
Publication date
July 2022

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