Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The effects of COVID-19 litter on animal life

Auke-Florian Hiemstra, Liselotte Rambonnet, Barbara Gravendeel, Menno Schilthuizen

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is massively used, resulting in a new wave of litter: protective face masks and gloves. These products that are designed to keep us safe, are actually harming animals around us. Here we present the first overview of all cases of entanglement, entrapment, and ingestion of COVID-19 litter, as well as the inclusion of gloves and face masks in bird nests.


Nature photographers, wildlife rescue centers, litter pickers, google detectives and social media heroes, we encourage everyone to share observations of animals interacting with PPE litter like entanglement, ingestion, entrapment, carrying PPE litter, playing with it or using it as nesting material. Feel free to add your own observations or add new examples - from your local or national news, or social media - that are currently missing in the global overview. Let us know!

Share your observations!




This is the first overview of reported cases of entanglement, entrapment, ingestion, and the use of COVID-19 litter as nesting material. Although the actual number of cases will be much higher than the number of cases found (Laist, 1997) we already signal COVID-19 litter as an emerging threat to animals. PPE litter has already been found in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. Also, its impact is observed in all of these habitats, by both vertebrates and invertebrates, ranging from birds and mammals to fishes and crabs. However, to fully understand the scope of the impact of PPE litter, more research is needed.



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