Plastics activist alarmed by face masks littering city and beaches

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Lorella Doherty makes reusable give-away masks, so people can avoid using single-use masks.

SIMON O’CONNOR / Tips

Lorella Doherty makes reusable give-away masks, so people can avoid using single-use masks.

A Taranaki woman offers to sew reusable masks for people who cannot find an alternative to disposable masks, so that she does not have to pick them up on the beaches.

Plastics activist Lorella Doherty, who has been collecting trash on beaches for several years, is shocked by the number of single-use masks she has seen littering the streets and beaches.

Single-use masks among other plastic debris Doherty collected off the beaches of Taranaki.

SIMON O’CONNOR / Tips

Single-use masks among other plastic debris Doherty collected off the beaches of Taranaki.

“I see them everywhere, so prolific, so fast, it’s scary,” she said.

“You see them fly away and you know they will eventually be washed away in the sea.

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“Yesterday, as I was driving to work, I saw eight masks in the gutters. I wanted to stop and pick them all up, but I had to close my eyes.

The New Plymouth woman said three million disposable masks are used around the world every minute and then end up in landfill or in addition to plastics littering the environment.

Doherty urges people to use reusable masks instead of the single-use version she finds on the streets and beaches.

SIMON O’CONNOR / Tips

Doherty urges people to use reusable masks instead of the single-use version she finds on the streets and beaches.

“People do what they think is right, protecting themselves, but as a side effect of being protected, it harms the environment.

“People don’t think about it, that there are other options instead of just throwing them away.”

Some people, including medical professionals, were required to wear single-use masks for their work, but reusable masks were a good option for most people, she said.

There are a number of people who make and sell cloth masks in Taranaki, and they’re pretty straightforward to make, Doherty said.

“I sewed them up, they just pile up.”

She is happy to donate the masks she made.

“If you can’t find or afford a reusable one, please MP [private message] me and I will sew and send you one myself free of charge, without judgment; I just want to stop feeling so sad when I see them enter our oceans. “

Doherty can be contacted through her Facebook page: Rethinking Plastic Revolution.

The New Plymouth District Council’s Zero Waste Taranaki website has an article on masks that includes a list of sellers of reusable masks and options for recycling disposable masks, she said.

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