The unforeseen occurrence of the global covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the use of unmanageable levels of biomedical plastic protective equipment (PPE) which have played significant roles in protecting people during the COVID-19 pandemic at a great cost to the environment. The widespread use of single-use PPE created a massive disruption in the supply chain and waste disposal system. Millions of discarded single-use plastics (masks, gloves, aprons, and bottles of sanitizers) have been added to the terrestrial environment and have caused a surge in plastics washing up the ocean coastlines and littering the seabed. A recent study estimates the plastic waste generated worldwide since the outbreak at 1.6 million tonnes/day. With approximately 3.4 billion single-use facemasks/face shields being discarded daily as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic globally3.
This is the topic of artists Semine Hazar, Ilhan Sayin, Fatma Kadir, and Selva Ozelli’s #Maskuary Campaign art shows launching at the London Climate Action Week from June 26 – July 4, 2021
With the support of the CUHK Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change, these artists intend to raise awareness of the environmental pollution from single-use plastic face mask disposals with the risk of contamination and infection it creates.
Here is what the artists say about their #Maskuary campaign art shows:
Semine Hazar: My art show “Sea Watcher 2 – Maskuary” was published by the United Nations for World Oceans Day and 4 paintings from the art show and a painting by Selva Ozelli is part of the World Oceans Day 2021 Art Gallery - Oceanic Global. With my art show that has sea and lighthouse-themed paintings, I want to draw attention to the importance of oceans to our world, our ecology, and the need for us to guard it, as oceans cover 70% of the surface of our world. I want to highlight the enormous environmental damage from the melting arctic as a result of climate change which contributed to the emergence of the pandemic, resulting in enormous single-use PPE disposals, which eventually find their way into our oceans, damaging the health and lives of sea creatures.
The possible roles of permafrost melting, atmospheric transport, and solar irradiance in the development of the Coronavirus pandemics were explored in a recent study by Anne M. Hofmeister, James M. Seckler, and Genevieve M. Criss published in the journal Scientific Reports1. Melting ice allows pathways to open in the Arctic. People and animals use these routes to access previously inaccessible areas and allow the wider spread of wildlife disease and contaminants into the ecosystem. Diminished sea ice allows contaminants to travel between nations via ice, which can transport a wide variety of contaminants ranging from anthropogenic pollutants like oil, lead, mercury, and microplastics, to dust, sediments, aerosol deposits, algae, and even biological communities such as the coronavirus. As the pandemic spread around the world, it necessitated the use of an enormous amount of PPE which ended up in our oceans, which smells like food to turtles when algae and bacteria grow on it according to another recently published study, ruining their digestive system.
Germany, Ecuador, Ghana, and Vietnam with the collaboration of UNEP are jointly organizing an informal Ministerial Conference on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution on 1-2 September 2021. Because the significant increase in the number of studies, citizen science initiatives, technology developments, and national monitoring programs have not led to consistent quantitative, baseline data on the sources, abundance, distribution, and fate of plastic waste in different environments globally. The Ministerial Conference on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution aspire to
“garner high-level political support for action on marine litter and plastic pollution and further explore the elements of coordinated global action, in the lead up to UNEA 5.2.”
Ilhan Sayin: The inspiration behind my art show “Spring Amidst Mist and Masks” is to lend support to the #Maskuary campaign which is raising public awareness about the disposal of single-use plastic mask waste’s impact on the environment as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.
Plastics have become a severe transboundary threat to natural ecosystems and human health, with studies predicting a twofold increase in the number of plastic debris by 2030. However, such predictions will likely be aggravated by the excessive use and consumption of single-use plastics PPE due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent study provides a comprehensive overview of the effects of COVID-19 on microplastic pollution and its potential implications on the environment and human health considering short- and long-term scenarios; addressing the main challenges and discussing potential strategies to overcome them2.
Ilhan Sayin also is exhibiting his solo art show Flowers of the Desert at 2021 LCAW.
Fatma Kadir: With my art show “Guarding Nature – Maskuary” I want to raise awareness of plastic pollution stemming from the pandemic and its impact on nature, wildlife, and birds.
As production of single-use face masks and other disposable PPE exploded, so too did their presence in the environment. Our pandemic trash is killing wildlife on a devastating scale, scientists warn in a new study documenting the deadly effects of 'COVID-19 litter' on animals in their natural habitat.
Selva Ozelli: In my Art in the Time of Corona series art shows, I explored whether Climate Change caused by carbon emissions might be one reason for such a terrible global COVID-19 pandemic scenario. Carbon pollution defies national borders and is inescapable. The true cost of climate change is felt when it penetrates deep into our respiratory and circulatory systems and damages our lungs, which are highly vulnerable to the coronavirus, according to a report prepared by the WHO. In my three art shows, Art in the Time of Corona 3 & 4 & 5 – Recovery Roses which are on exhibit at #LCAW 2021 I explored the theme of a sustainable green recovery plan from the pandemic. This necessitates understanding the links between climate change, health, and biodiversity; and implementing ambitious climate change policies, which align with the Paris agreement. The United Nation's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are a call for action by all countries to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. More important than ever, these goals provide a critical framework for a COVID-19 green recovery.
The #LCAW2021 art shows will also be on exhibit at TIIKM’s “Health in the Arts and Humanities” Fine Art & Humanities Conference that will take place on September 21-22, 2021 in Srilanka, with paintings that have been selected in the following United Nations Art Contests:
Hofmeister AM, Seckler JM, Criss GM. Possible Roles of Permafrost Melting, Atmospheric Transport, and Solar Irradiance in the Development of Major Coronavirus and Influenza Pandemics. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(6):3055. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063055
Patrício Silva, A. L., Prata, J. C., Walker, T. R., Duarte, A. C., Ouyang, W., Barcelò, D., & Rocha-Santos, T. (2021). Increased plastic pollution due to COVID-19 pandemic: Challenges and recommendations. Chemical engineering journal (Lausanne, Switzerland : 1996), 405, 126683. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cej.2020.126683
Nsikak U. Benson, David E. Bassey, Thavamani Palanisami, COVID pollution: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on global plastic waste footprint, Heliyon, Volume 7, Issue 2, 2021, e06343, ISSN 2405-8440, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e06343