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Three million face masks are thought to be thrown away every minute, research suggests.

In June 2020, researchers at the University of Aveiro in Portugal estimated that 129 billion face masks are used monthly across the world.

Experts at the University of Denmark have described the worrying statistic, which amounts to three million face masks a minute, as a ‘ticking time bomb’.

In the paper, titled Preventing masks from becoming the next plastic problem, scientists said the world must ‘urgently recognise this potential environmental threat’.

One key factor which could be contributing to the problem is that face coverings are a new phenomenon in most countries across the world. While we are quite used to recycling items such as plastic bottles, there is no official guidance on mask recycling. Researchers said this makes it more likely that they would be disposed of as solid waste.

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