A MOTHER and daughter from New Milton are on a mission to protect animals by cleaning up facemasks scattered around their town.
Tammie Jones (41) and Rhia (14), of Greenwood Close, were inspired to take action after becoming frustrated by the number of masks they saw littering streets and parks while walking their two dogs, Hunter and Tinchy.
Tammie told the A&T: “It was mostly Rhia, but we were really concerned about all the masks that were about, and we just thought that rather than worry about it, we would do something about it.
“It’s not just that it looks disgusting having all these masks lying around, but there is also the danger to wildlife.
“People should be aware of where their masks go. I’ve seen pictures of birds with masks stuck in their beaks, and that’s heartbreaking to see.”
The pair initially used their dog poo bags to pick up the masks, but have now secured grabbers and biodegradable bags.
Tammie, who also acts as a carer for Rhia, who has autism and attention deficit hyperactive disorder, explained the collections helped keep her mind occupied.
“This is something Rhia gets a real buzz from. Every time we find a mask, she says ‘That’s one animal saved, mum’,” she explained.
On Monday they had collected a total of 147 discarded masks in the space of a week, and they are expanding their campaign to cover surrounding areas including Barton and Highcliffe.
“We like to be proactive and do something, and this is the perfect way to do it,” Tammie continued.
“This pandemic is not going to go away any time soon, with people needing to continue wearing facemasks.
“If more people out there are more aware of what they are doing with their masks, that’s the important thing.”
Keep Britain Tidy chief executive officer Alison Ogden-Newton told the A&T discarded personal protective equipment accounted for 88% of rubbish collected in litter picks nationwide since March.
Describing the issue as “endemic”, she said: “Our plea to the public is where they are wearing masks to protect the community, they similarly need to dispose of them correctly to protect the environment.
“There is anecdotal evidence that discarded PPE is posing a hazard to wildlife. The disposable masks are lined in plastic – they are non-biodegradable.
“We’ve been campaigning quite widely for months now for people to do the right thing. Put it in the bin, it’s not hard really.”
The RSPCA urged people to snip the straps from their used masks before disposing of them after it was revealed in September that these accounted for a portion of 900 nationwide cases of animals tangled in litter since March’s first lockdown.