The rise in disposable face masks, plastic gloves and bottles of hand sanitiser being used to prevent the spread of coronavirus are adding massively to plastic pollution and threatening the health of oceans and marine life.
Across social media, many members of the public have shared pictures of the bright blue gloves and crumbled masks littering streets and parking lots after being discarded around the world.
In most situations, this litter is left to frontline workers to clean up. Those not picked up can be washed down drains and end in waterways and oceans.
In Los Angeles, city officials have boosted fines regarding littering due to the danger dropping contaminated products may pose towards others.
While no-one can dispute the current urgency and importance of PPE, many of these single-use products have already ended up in the oceans, damaging the ecosystem and contributing to plastic pollution.
The WWF has reported that if as little as 1% of masks were disposed of incorrectly and dispersed in nature, this would mean 10 million masks a month polluting the environment.
The report also states that despite each mask weighing as little as 4 grams, it would result in 40,000kg of plastic in nature.
Dropping PPE in this sense is not only a hazardous health risk, but most of the equipment is single-use materials that can’t be recycled and/or are not biodegradable.
Surgical masks, for instance, are made of non-woven fabrics that include plastics like polypropylene.
Many nature projects such as Operation Mer Propre in France has filmed masks and gloves found at the bottom of the waters of the Mediterranean.
It is widely known the disastrous effects plastic has on marine ecosystems. The National Ocean Service explains that plastic doesn’t decompose and instead breaks into tiny pieces called microplastics.
The Ocean Conservancy discovered that fish species consume plastic debris, confusing it for real food.
The brightly coloured latex gloves are being mistaken by seabirds, turtles and other marine mammals as food putting them at risk of severe injuries and death.
An early warning sign of the effects of single-use PPE came back in February when OceansAsia posted a photo with dozens of surgical masks found on Hong Kong beaches.
Plastic has regularly been found in dead marine wildlife, and in 2019 a sperm whale stranded on the Isle of Harris in Scotland was found to have 220lb of debris in its stomach including rope, plastic gloves, bags and cups.
Co-founder of OceansAsia, Gary Stokes, told The Independent: “I’m waiting to hear of the first necropsy that finds masks inside a dead marine animal. It’s not a question of if, but when.”
The Policy Director on Chemicals and Pollution at Greenpeace, Kevin Stairs, has said that there is no scientific evidence that single-use plastics are better than reusable ones.
He said: “When reusing a PPE, we disinfect it. With single-use products, the item is fugitive, escapes the system and can carry the Sars-CoV-2 virus for days on its surface.”
A professor in marine biology at the University of Plymouth, Richard Thompson, has said that while we should not ‘delay giving everyone PPE’ due to the ‘crisis and immense pressure’ we are currently facing, people need to be told how to dispose of them correctly.
He also said that sustainability practices backtrack in a crisis, explaining that the sea is not littered by the use of the product but the way in which it is disposed of.
As such, if the design of any product was made in a way that is easier to recycle and reuse there could be less waste from such products, ‘whether it’s a bottle of lemonade or a mask that’s used in a hospital’.
Over 370,000 people have died from coronavirus worldwide and it is imperative we continue to practice safe methods such as social distancing, but there are increasingly more and more sustainable options to single-use products, even in the pandemic.
The World Health Organisation has said that washing hands regularly is more effective than wearing gloves at preventing the spread of the virus.
There are also sustainable innovations slowly beginning to emerge, such as the use of ultraviolet light in decontaminating, and therefore prolonging the life of medical masks.
COVID-19 also remains on plastic longer than almost any material examined (in laboratory conditions) so opting for plastic covered food isn’t necessarily the better option.
The European Food Safety Authority has also said: “There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of COVID-19”, and that heat during cooking kills the virus.
To cut back on laundry during the pandemic, individuals can consider an ‘outside set of clothes’ that can be removed immediately and stored in a closed bag, giving the virus time to die off.
To limit the number of times you visit the shop and reduce your overall carbon footprint you could opt for a vegetarian or vegan diet, including growing your own vegetables in gardens or balconies and in some cases window ledges or received veg deliveries from local farmers.
ABANDONED MANCHESTER: Exploring the city’s derelict buildings
Manchester has countless abandoned and derelict buildings waiting to be explored…
While Manchester is one of the most up-and-coming cities in the UK at the moment, a vast proportion of its industrial past continue to stand derelict to this very day.
And, luckily for those of us who don’t fancy stepping foot into a crumbling building housing many ghosts, there’s one man exploring all of Manchester’s abandoned gems for us.
Matthew Holmes, known as The Derelict Explorer on social media, has explored every old and eerie building Manchester has to offer, wether it be the sinister looking Odeon on your walk home or a crumbling old cottage out of the city.
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from his page…
The Smith’s Arms Pub, Ancoats
A true Ancoats staple, The Smith’s Arms pub opened all the way back in 1827 and is now one of the last of the ‘slums’ left in the area, where poor factory workers lived on top of each other in rows and rows of terraced houses.
As a result of decline in the surrounding factories and mills, the number of workers using the mill dropped after the 1960’s, something that had a massive impact on the pub. Sadly, in 1990, it was forced to close it’s doors for good.
Remarkably, the building still contains a number of original features, including a narrow Georgian staircase still located in the middle of the building, the original entrance door from 1775 and the tiled entrance flooring, which is arguably the best part of the building.
Old Adelphi Building, Salford
The Old Adelphi Building opened in 1915 as a chemical factory built for Griffiths Hughes, a company who made products such as Rennies (saviour), Radox, Kruschen Salts and Trugel.
The building was eventually bought by the Salford Royal College of Advanced Technology and, in the late 1980’s, was eventually renamed to Adelphi Campus and became the School of Media, Music and Performance.
The building closed in 2016 but, today, it remains derelict and still contains remenants from its time as a college, complete with tables, chairs, music equipment and even old dissertation feedback forms.
Chorlton Swimming Baths, Chorlton
The Chorlton Swimming Baths opened its doors in 1920 with separate male and female pools in a time when people were separated by their class and gender.
The building also housed a wash room so the local residents could wash their clothes. Later this became the sports hall up until the buildings closure.
However, the arrival of the new leisure centre complex in Chorlton caused the original Chorlton Swimming Baths to permanently close in 2015. Today, the original swimming pool is still present, as are the retro changing rooms lined along the side and squash and basketball courts.
‘The Toast Rack Building’, Fallowfield
Opening back in 1960, The Toast Rack Building – or the Hollins Campus, as it later became renamed – was the first building of its kind entering a new age of architecture, with modern concrete towers beginning to grow across Manchester after the Second World War.
(The Grade II Listed building gained its name due to, you guessed it, its distinctive design which looks very much like a Toast Rack.)
The building closed for good following a re-shuffle of MMU’s departments and faculties in 2013 and has stood abandoned ever since, its old lecture theatres and classrooms falling victim to vandalism and graffiti.
Stevenson Square Underground Toilets
When you’re next sipping a cocktail or a £6 pint of craft beer in Stevenson Square, just remember that an abandoned public toilet lurks beneath your feet.
All twelve cubicles separated between the male and female toilets are somehow intact (though I doubt they’ll work very well) and have never been refurbished, so have the same tiles and flooring from when they would’ve been in use all those years ago.
Due to high maintenance, the toilets served the public until 1986 when they closed and the entrances were bricked up.
The chilling tale of the Swedish twins who ran into traffic on M6 before stabbing a man to death
The twins were believed to have been experiencing a ‘shared psychosis’ at the time of the incidents
On Saturday May 17th 2008, Highway Agency officers were called out to the M6 after two women were spotted spotted walking along the median of the motorway on a security camera.
But little did these officers know, their day at work would be far from an ordinary one and would in fact turn into of the most infamous and most highly publicised traffic incidents of its decade.
It all started in Liverpool; Sabina and Ursula Eriksson, two Swedish women in their late-thirties at the time, had traveled to the city by ferry from Sabina’s home in County Cork, Ireland.
Ursula was visiting her sister from her home in the US and, upon arriving in Liverpool, went to visit St. Anne Police Station with Sabina, who reported concerns about the safety of her children back in Ireland.
However, it is believed that from there, the twins went on to board a National Express Coach to London, where the driver grew suspicious of their behaviour and eventually ordered them off the vehicle at Keele service station.
After the twins behaved erratically with their luggage, the service manager called the police out of concern that the twins were carrying explosives. When the police came to speak to the women, however, they allowed them to leave.
But what happened next was simply unprecedented; after leaving the service station on foot, sisters were spotted on security camera walking down the median of the M6. Shockingly, they were then seen trying to cross the busy road, were cars were traveling as fast as 70mph.
Highway Agency officers rushed to the scene, as did the Central Motorway Police Group who, little did the twins know, were being shadowed by film crews for BBC One’s Motorway Cops.
Upon arrival, and with everything being caught on camera, the situation was apparently diffused, with the twins appearing calm while smoking cigarettes and chatting with officers. But, out of nowhere, Ursula suddenly darted out into the road, her green coat being pulled from her by a concerned officer as she ran forward.
A lorry traveling at an estimated 56mph hit Ursula and immediately crushed both her legs. At this, Sabina darted out and smashed straight into the windshield of a Volkswagen Polo, the force of which knocked her unconscious for fifteen minutes.
However, the drama was far from over.
When an air ambulance arrived, Sabina regained consciousness and began to immediately attack the police officer trying to help her, screaming “I recognise you, you’re not real” and making various claims of organ theft.
She then managed to get to her feet and, when asking why the police officers had tried to kill her, attempted to once again run into traffic. Luckily, officers were able to apprehend her and put her into handcuffs.
The sisters were eventually taken to the hospital where it was confirmed that Ursula had severely fractured both her legs. Sabina was remarkably uninjured, and was taken to the police station to be processed.
The following day, Sabina was released from court, where she pleaded guilty to the charges of punching a police officer and trespassing on the motorway, and was sentenced to one day in custody. But, having spent a full night in the police station, she was deemed to have served her sentence. Remarkably, there had been no full psychiatric evaluation.
Following her release, Sabina is said to have wandered the streets of Stoke-on-Trent in an attempt to find her sister. This is when where, at around 7pm, she was spotted by two men who were walking a dog, one of whom was fifty-four-year-old Glenn Hollinshead.
Taking pity on her, Glenn offered her a place to stay at his home – but the very next day while making dinner, Sabina stabbed him four times with a kitchen knife.
According to reports, Sabina fled the scene armed with a hammer as Glenn’s neighbours contacted the police. As officers and paramedics pursued her, Sabina wound up on the top of a forty foot tall bridge, which she leapt from, breaking both her legs.
While she was recovering at University Hospital of North Staffordshire, police arrested her on June 6th 2008 and later charged with murder. Both sisters were relocated back to Sweden and then to the United States. Sabina went on to plead guilty to manslaughter with diminished responsibility.
Sabina’s defence argued that she was a secondary sufferer of Folie à deux, French for ‘a madness of two,’ or ‘shared psychosis’, going on to claim that she had transmitted insanity from her twin Ursula.
The prosecution at Nottingham Crown Court accepted this and, subsequently, Sabina received just five years, which were served at Bronzefield Women’s Prison.
Mr Justice Saunders described it as ‘one of the most difficult cases he had ever had to sentence’, saying: “While the mental illness resolved quickly, both psychiatrists agree it was serious and that she behaved in the way she did because of her illness.
“Her culpability for her behaviour is, on the medical evidence, accordingly low. She was suffering from delusions which she believed to be true and they dictated her behaviour. It is also not one of those cases where the defendant could have done something to avoid the onset.”
Since her release from prison in 2011, the whereabouts of Sabina Eriksson and her twin sister have remained unknown.
You can watch the scene from BBC One’s Motorway Cops here.
The world record for a beer-chugging sprinting race was just broken in Manchester
We caught up with one of the Beer Mile World Classic’s Manc competitors..
The world record for a bizarre beer-chugging sprinting race was broken here in Manchester last month, and we’ve never wanted to down a pint and go for a sprint more in our lives.
Born as an underground frat tradition in San Francisco in 2015, The Beer Mile World Classics has evolved into an internationally renowned competition, with nearly 100,000 keen competitors from all over the world taking part and giving both their legs and their stomachs a run for their money each year.
The premise of the race is simple; competitors are tasked with running one mile but have to stop every quarter of a mile to drink a 355ml can or bottle of beer (not a pint, sadly) as quickly as they can before proceeding on with the race.
For anyone who’s jogged to catch the bus after one too many in the pub on a Friday night will know that the acts of running and drinking beer do not mix well, and all too frequently result in a lot of puke.
Of course, the organisers of the race have the possibility of throwing up covered; if any competitor pukes more than once during the race, they are forced to run a penalty lap at the end of the race. No rest for the wicked, obviously.
Over the years, the race has been held across a number of different locations, such as San Francisco, London, Vancouver, and Berlin – but this year, it was brought to Greater Manchester in the humble town of Leigh, where the world record was actually broken by Canadian runner Corey Bellemore, who completed the race in an impressive new world-record time of 4:28.1.
But why exactly was such a far-flung tradition brought to Leigh? Well, it is mainly down to Manc-born competitor Laura Riches, twenty-eight, who suggested her local running club Leigh Harriers and Athletic Club after hearing that the organisers were looking for a brand new location to bring the race to.
Speaking to Proper Manchester, Laura, from Tyldesley, explained that finding a track to accommodate the Beer Mile’s unique set of rules was quite the challenge, but the chairman of Leigh Harriers was ‘more than up for it’, noting: “Everybody in Leigh loves a good beer, so this is exactly what they’ll love.”
Laura’s introduction into the world of the Beer Mile World Classics was a pure coincidence; while in London in 2016 for a party, she went to an event at the Allied Stadium to meet a friend, only to be roped into trying out for the England team by the organisers who were hosting their event there that year.
She said on her first time running: “It was hilarious because I’d never drank a beer in my life. It was awful, I hated every minute of it. But while my drinking was really slow, my running was quick enough for me to keep up with the other contestants. The first three laps I was catching everyone up but eventually my beer drinking slowed me down.”
Laura, who ended up competing for England in the Beer Mile World Classics in Vancouver in 2017, sadly couldn’t compete this year due to a knee injury, so instead helped to host and commentate the event. She said the race had a great turn out in Leigh, saying: “Surprisingly it was a good turn out – over a hundred people showed up.
“There was also loads of people from the running club and the nearby sporting village who came down after hearing about it too. It was mad, and it could have been even bigger if it had been held in the summer as originally planned.”
Laura also organised the ‘chunder mile’ for the locals and less experienced runners to take part in. She explained: “So I put on ‘the chunder mile’ which is where you drink actual pints and you’re allowed to be sick, and I did an open Beer Mile, and loads of people from Leigh actually came down and took part for a bit of fun.”
And it isn’t just the running, the medals and the abundance of beer that makes Laura go back each year; it’s the Beer Mile community.
She said: “We’re all part of a massive community now; I’ve made some great friends and we all have our own chats on Facebook and Whatsapp. There’s some great drinking videos that go around, and we’re always challenging each other to drink different things.
“It’s a bit of a weird and strange community, everyone has normal jobs and goes to work everyday and just run and train on the side. But it’s one thing we all share and enjoy together, even though it can be unpleasant; we’re all crazy to find the beer running fun.”
Head over to the Beer Mile World Classics website for more information on their upcoming events.