During the Covid-19 pandemic, personal protection equipment (PPE) was widely used to control the virus further spared. In this study, the presence of PPE wastes along the coastline of Bushehr port, the Persian Gulf from nine stations was investigated (4 times during 40 days), and their potential for microplastics (MPs) creation was preliminarily assessed. In total, more than 2380 PPE were collected in the study area. No significant differences were found between various beaches regarding their types and common activities. In addition, the estimated disposal rate of PPE per day and year is 350 and 127,750 items, respectively. More than 10% of the collected PPE from Bushehr's coastal areas on each sampling day were damaged. Based on the microscopic analysis, the left surgical masks and torn plastic gloves in the coastal regions are emerging sources of secondary microfibers and MP particles (mostly fragments and films) in the marine environments, respectively.
During the last year, human beings have faced deadly infectious disease, and since March 2020, Covid-19 was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) (Ducharme, 2020). Then, different measures have been used in different parts of the world, such as staying at home (lockdown), travel restriction, social distancing, washing of hands, surface disinfection, and isolation (Aragaw, 2020; Fadare and Okoffo, 2020; Rhee, 2020). Moreover, various personal protective equipment (PPE-i.e., face masks, gloves, face shields, alcohol spray) was used in different countries in order to control the virus further spared (De-la-Torre and Aragaw, 2021; Nowakowski et al., 2020). It is estimated that more than 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves have been used monthly all around the world (Prata et al., 2020). Discarded only 1% of these PPE exceeds ten million items (Celis et al., 2021) and can cause an environmental crisis.
Single-use face masks, N95 masks, gloves, and face shields are mainly produced from plastic polymers such as polypropylene, polystyrene, polyacrylonitrile, polyester, and polyurethane (Aragaw, 2020; Ardusso et al., 2021; Potluri and Needham, 2005; Sangkham, 2020). Most of the surgical masks have three layers: 1) an inner layer with soft fibers, 2) a middle layer with melt-gusted filter, and 3) an outer layer with nonwoven fibers which are usually colored and water-resistant (Aragaw, 2020; Fadare and Okoffo, 2020). Approximately the weight of polypropylene (PP) in a single N95 mask and surgical mask is 11 and 4.5 g, respectively (Abbasi et al., 2020; Liebsch, 2020). In addition, the most commonly single-use gloves are made of polyethylene (PE), latex, and nitrile (Nowakowski et al., 2020). Although these types of plastics can easily be recycled, they are usually mixed with other wastes or left in the environment (i.e., parks, beaches, forests) (Nowakowski et al., 2020).