Litter pickers in Basingstoke are seeing a huge increase in the number of used disposable face masks found dumped during their patrols, according to one local business.

And they estimate the number of single-use masks being used in Basingstoke has reached 64,084 per day.

“The scale of the problem of carelessly dumped disposable face masks is massive – residents of Basingstoke use 64,084 single use plastic masks a day and sadly some of these are being dropped, or simply fall from people’s pockets”, said Charlotte Green, of Basingstoke-based firm

The number of disposable face masks that will be used across the UK in 2021 has been calculated at 19.5 billion.

One of the issues, Charlotte suggests, is people don't know how to get rid of their masks safely after wearing.

Charlotte said: “Used masks are tricky and you should not touch a used mask – they should be treated like any other potentially contaminated material and only handled professionally using the right protecting equipment."

Litter pickers across the country are reporting an increasing number of masks being collected during their rounds.

Generally, litter picking groups are finding one mask for every 60metres they patrol, especially near shops.

Max Ratcliffe, aged six, from Menston in West Yorkshire took part in a home-schooling project to examine litter and its effect on the environment in his local wood.

He was shocked by how many masks he spotted, with one dumped mask found every 50metrr on a path popular with dog walkers.

“I think it’s really bad. People should put them in the bin. Animals might eat them, and they might die”, said Max.

Charlotte continued: “The way to tackle this potential environmental disaster is for everyone to move towards washable reusable masks, not only will this cut down on single use mask litter, but it also reduces the environmental impacts of manufacturing 19.5 billion plastic masks in the first place.

She warned: "As a country we have worked so hard to reduce plastic consumption, yet we are sleepwalking into another nightmare."

What 19.5 billion single use face masks in numbers looks like:

  • 52 million a day (64,084 in Basingstoke)
  • 1.6 billion a month in the UK which is 19.5 billion a year - weight equivalent to 5 ½ Eiffel Towers