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.
The story behind Manchester’s mysterious Withy Grove Stores
It looks like it’s not been touched for 40 years, so what’s really going on in there…
Surrounded by chicken shops and takeaways sits an oddity in modern Manchester, the Withy Grove Stores.
At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s abandoned, a relic from the 1980s that time and gentrification forgot, confusingly located round the back of the Printworks.
In fact, the safe and office supply store is very much still active, although you can’t just walk in off the street and have a browse – the whole thing raises so many questions, like who owns it? Why hasn’t it been bought and turned into a chicken shop? Is it being used as a front?
Well, the guys over at Manchester’s Finest had a bit of a dig around into the history of the building, and we now have some answers to your questions.
They spoke to a safe and office interior company called Withy Grove Office Interiors, who explained that the company began on Withy Grove in Manchester all the way back in 1850.
However, the history goes even further back, when the Richmond Safe Company was set up by John R Solomon back in 1799, supplying iron-branded and ironclad strongboxes for ships.
The Richmond Safe Company continued to operate until around 1840, at which point they located to offices on Withy Grove and renamed themselves Withy Grove Stores. From here the company expanded, eventually running three sites in the North of England – Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds (the company still operates from Leeds now).
For over 130 years the shop on Withy Grove flogged safes and furniture, impervious to the rapid change and development around it – the Withy Grove Printing House, which printed the Daily Mirror among other titles, closed down in 1985, while the Arndale popped up over the road in the late 1970s.
During the 1980s, it appears the Solomon brothers all fell out over something and each site was broken up and given to one of them to look after. The Leeds site was sold off to private owners by Casper Solomon, but the Manchester location is still very much owned by a Solomon to this day.
A quick check on Companies House shows the Directors of the company are Brian Solomon and Anthony Solomon, and both still own and run the Withy Grove Stores on Withy Grove. Financial statements show the company ran at a substantial loss in both 2018 and 2019, which isn’t really surprising.
So what do they do there and why is it never open? Manchester’s Finest rang up the store’s phone number – found on their still active website – and this is what happened: “The phone was answered by a lovely woman, and we were told that the shop is indeed open and she proceeded to bang out some rather erratic opening times for the week ahead.”
So there you go, if you are in the market for a safe or office chair, give them a ring and grab yourself a retro little number when lockdown is over.
A thread on Reddit also delved into the mystery of Withy Grove Stores, and some people revealed their own experiences with the shop, including actually buying stuff from it.
A user called MR_EXCELLENT wrote: “I rang Mr.Solomon myself a few years ago to ask if I could rent a bit of space in the building, he declined stating he gets dozens of calls every week asking him to ‘sell up’. He told me his dad built the building and he’ll never sell, I told him how much I like the building and how much I’d hate to see a big company ruin it, he told me he thought it would make an excellent Italian restaurant. Good chat! He seemed to be happy to talk to someone who appreciated the building but he could have just been too polite to tell me to fuck off.”
Redditor asidonhopo added: “I went in about 8 years ago or so. Wanted a nice comfy computer chair and it looked like they had some interesting old school office stuff in there, so I rang and the lady said she’d be around that Saturday and to knock on. Her dad used to own the place apparently, she was dead happy for me to just root around through all the old stuff and chat away.”
Pedro-a-go-go actually bought something from there: “I’ve bought stuff in there before, admittedly about 15 years ago. Needed a load of office ‘in trays’ for work. There was a lot of standing about as the bloke was dealing with someone buying a safe, and couldn’t work out how it to change the combination on the safe he was demonstrating. He ended up snapping a teaspoon and jamming it in the lock to try to get it to change. The person didn’t buy the safe. Also office in trays are REALLY expensive….”
And so did Redditor scottynoble: “I bought a safe from there in 2008. Still have it. Friend who recently passed away was a big deal at printworks recommended the place and got me a discount. Was like stepping into 1971, lovely people.”
If you’re having really weird dreams this lockdown here’s why
(Don’t worry, you’re not the only one)
If you’re finding yourself having super weird dreams and actually being able to remember them in the morning, don’t panic, you’re not alone.
Tonnes of people across the country have been reporting the exact same thing during lockdown. Luckily a scientist has given us a clever explanation that will calm down all our fears that self-isolation might be getting to us.
There are a lot of contributing factors that stem from being in lockdown that are changing our dream patterns. One of the biggest one is increased stress and anxiety levels due to the uncertainty of the world right now.
Many, in fact, most people are finding themselves with financial worries and pressures like never before.
Cabin fever is also a huge factor to our unconscious thinking patterns and a lot of people are having dreams of being stuck, whether that formulates as a room with no doors or a shipwreck you’re stuck on – it all comes down to a feeling of being stuck inside. Which is pretty self explanatory.
We’re all also spending more time than ever with the same few people which will be having an effect on your dreams.
Other reasoning comes down to the fact that our homes are physically warmer because we’re all in it, potentially with the heating on. When we’re asleep and warm we have more vivid dreams.
Some people’s dreams might not be that spectacular – finding themselves down the local having a frosty pint of their favourite beer (which does actually sound spectacular tbh) – and that’s completely fine too.
Life has become monotonous, what with ‘going to work’ including rolling out of bed and walking the 10 steps to the dining table. Basically we’re just missing normality and craving the things we would do in an average week.
There’s even a reason as to why we’re all remembering our dreams like they’re a blockbuster movie too.
As we’re all having a little lie-in in the morning, with some of us not even setting an alarm, we can move into that REM sleep.
While we’re in REM sleep our brains are more active, dreams get longer and more vivid. With our alarms not going off, we stay in this type of sleep for longer, dreams extend, get weirder and we can then remember them when we get up.
So whatever your dreams involve, you’re not crazy just isolated!! Keep dreaming kids!
Who remembers Manchester’s hugely popular Granada Studios Tour?
Ahh the memories…
It was Manchester’s answer to Universal Studios, but with the Coronation Street set…
After a successful decade-long run of providing fun for Manchester, the demise of the Granada Studio Tour began after visitor numbers dwindled – meaning the tour sadly shut up shop for one last time.
One of the biggest reasons as to why can be put down to poor businesses practises at ITV, which saw the company lose millions.
The main culprit was the Sky-like service called ‘ONDigital’, which launched in 1998 and was forced into administration just four short years later.
It was pretty much the exact same concept as Sky, only the exclusive shows were essentially rubbish and the whole thing flopped.
At this point the Granada Studios Tour was seen as a large and unnecessary expense, and unfortunately closed down.
The tour was the brainchild of Granada producer David Plowright, who proposed to create a ‘Hollywood-on-the-Irwell‘ – and that he did. Sort of, anyway.
The tour first opened its doors in 1988, expecting to welcome 250,000 in the first year, but in the initial eight months alone 600,000 people visited to take in the sights.
Arguably the most popular attraction was the Coronation Street set which in 2013 moved to MediaCity, built on an even bigger scale with the chance to go inside too!
In 2018 Victoria Street was added, which features a garden and memorial bench paying tribute to the Manchester Arena bombing 22 victims and Coronation Street super fan Martyn Hett.
The old Granada Studios Tour might not have been the bright lights of LA or Hollywood, but you don’t get much more Mancunian than that cobbled street!
What are your favourite memories of the tour?