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Coastside Cleanup Group Says Pandemic PPE Is Choking Beaches

PACIFICA (KPIX) -- Masks and gloves may be saving lives on land but they're also bringing death to wildlife in and around our oceans.

The Pacific Beach Coalition and its volunteers said they've picked up thousands of personal protective equipment since the pandemic began.

"Masks and gloves and the hand wipes that are made of plastic," said Pacific Beach Coalition president Lynn Adams. "They're plastic, they break into smaller and smaller microscopic pieces of plastic. It kills birds, fish and wildlife. Then that comes back to us when we eat the fish."

The coalition, which was created in 1997, holds regular cleanups of streets and beaches from Half Moon Bay to Daly City. The group calls its efforts "Street to Beach" and uses an app to track how much and what type of trash they pick up.

Adams said that, since October, they've picked up an average of 666 pieces of PPE per month. She said plastic food to-go containers used more frequently during the pandemic are showing up a lot more on the ground recently. That's in addition to the normal amount of trash they've been collecting for years.

Terri Brown, a retiree who volunteers with the coalition every week, has picked up 443 masks and gloves alone in the past few months.

"The masks get caught on the animals, ducks get it around their neck," Brown said.

Adams is concerned about the rise in PPE as the weather gets warmer and more people flock to the beaches. She worries that it'll get worse before it gets better.

"I am so concerned," Adams said. "When we had people at the beaches we were picking up dozens and dozens of masks and gloves."

She's asking everyone to pick up litter if they see it.

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