The other day I came across an unusual headline that caught my attention: “More Masks Than Jellyfish: Coronavirus Waste Ends Up in Ocean.”

Masks and other personal protective equipment are clearly important in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, conservationists are concerned that many of the items that we have been using over the past several months to protect us and stem the tide of spreading COVID-19 will, in fact, end up swishing around in the tide before making their way to the bottom of our seas. There are, of course, better ways to dispose of the masks and gloves that would eliminate this unnecessary waste on the seabed.

Laurent Lombard, a French snorkeler who co-founded Opération Mer Propre, which organizes weekly ocean cleanups, addressed the COVID-19 waste topic on his Facebook page. His translated quote says, “Knowing that more than 2 billion disposable masks have been ordered, soon there may be more masks than jellyfish in Mediterranean waters.”  

This is not a new problem by any means; it’s why we created the Sphera Litter Challenge in the first place to encourage people to pick up at least one piece of litter a day and recycle it if possible to help create a more sustainable world for everyone. 

As we address new challenges, we always must take into consideration whether our efforts can have unintended consequences. We covered this topic in our recent blog post when we discussed how companies transitioning their manufacturing processes to create COVID-19-related products could face Operational, Products Stewardship or Sustainability risks. Similarly, as companies consider their returntowork policies, Environment, Health & Safety risks must be taken into consideration.  

Sphera’s software, data and consulting services help organizations manage their day-to-day risks. The predictive and prescriptive capabilities of our Integrated Risk Management 4.0 (IRM 4.0) solutions help address Operational, Product Stewardship and EHS&S risks all on one software platformSpheraCloudThis platform also helps companies innovate safely and effectively while ensuring they are complying with regulatory, market and social requirements and developments. 

Change, as they say, is constant. Whether we’re talking about operational or sustainable developments related to COVID-19, compliance deadlines related to Poison Centre Notification in the European Union, isolations management during maintenance, or anything else, it’s imperative that organizations have the proper systems in place. 

2020 has been a challenging year in so many ways, and keeping your people safe, your products sustainable and your operations productive is critical to managing through these situations. 



Paul Marushka is Sphera’s founding president and chief executive officer.

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