1.6 Billion Disposable Masks Entered Our Oceans in 2020
- 52 billion disposable face masks were produced in 2020 (this includes N95 respirators and surgical masks)
- It’s estimated that 1.6 billion of these masks ended up in our oceans
- This equates to roughly 5,500 tons of plastic pollution
Demand for Disposable Masks Skyrockets in 2020
Following the World Health Organization’s formal declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world quickly mandated the use of face masks in public spaces.
This led to a massive demand shock, prompting factories to begin producing disposable masks at full capacity. The majority of these masks were produced in China, and in April 2020, the country reported a staggering daily production figure of 450 million masks.
Plastic Pollution: A Lesser Known Side Effect
In Ocean Asia’s 2020 report, Masks on the Beach, researchers developed a formula to provide reasonable estimates for the number of disposable masks entering the environment.
Given an annual production figure of 52 billion disposable masks and a loss rate of 3% (the percentage of masks that escape water management systems), the team concluded that nearly 1.6 billion face masks wound up in our oceans in 2020. This amounts to approximately 5,500 tons of plastic pollution.
These masks are commonly made of polypropylene, which easily breaks up into microplastics. While the effects of microplastics on human health are not yet determined, these fragments are incredibly common in our water supply—for example, 94% of U.S. tap water is deemed to be contaminated.
Disposable Doesn’t Mean They’re Gone
Despite their single-use nature, disposable masks are expected to take more than four centuries to decompose while in the ocean. Here’s how this compares to other items we use on a day-to-day basis.
|Item||Years Needed to Biodegrade|
|Plastic grocery bag||20|
The pandemic has extended well into 2021, and the number of disposable masks polluting our oceans is likely to continue growing.
With this in mind, various companies and organizations are beginning to search for a solution. One noteworthy example is Plaxtil, which is developing a method for recycling surgical masks so that the raw materials can be used for other products.
»Like this? Then you might enjoy this infographic on the flow of plastic waste.
Where does this data come from?
Source: Oceans Asia, Statista, Plastic Collectors
The Link Between Entrepreneurship and Mental Health Conditions
Research explores the link between entrepreneurship and mental health conditions such as ADHD and bipolar disorder
- Prevalence of ADHD, substance use disorders, and mood disorders appears to be higher in entrepreneurs than in the general public
- One-third of entrepreneurs reported two or more co-occurring mental health conditions
The Link Between Entrepreneurship and Mental Health Conditions
Entrepreneurship has long been associated with traits like risk-taking, persistence, and creativity. It’s no surprise, then, many of the world’s most successful companies were brought to life by neurodivergent founders.
Neurodivergence refers to natural differences in brain function among individuals with conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and bipolar disorder. As this 2019 study demonstrates, entrepreneurs appear to experience mental health and addiction issues more frequently than the general public, and tend to have families with these illnesses at a higher rate.
Nearly half of entrepreneurs included in the study have one or more mental health conditions. Below the are the numbers for four of the conditions studied.
|Entrepreneurs||General Sample Group|
The research also looked at anxiety, but found that levels were similar between entrepreneurs and the sample group.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), dyslexia, and Asperger’s Syndrome, which are not included in this research, are other noteworthy conditions that are sometimes connected with entrepreneurship.
Asperger’s, in particular, is present in a number of successful founders, including Elon Musk and Bill Gates. Peter Thiel, billionaire investor and serial entrepreneur, has argued that this mild version of autism could be an asset in founding successful companies.
An Open Question
There are two competing ideas around the link between entrepreneurship and mental health conditions.
First, some posit that traits associated with mental health conditions (e.g. hyperfocus for ADHD, or attention to detail for Asperger’s) are assets in the startup world.
Secondly, it is also thought that because neurodivergent individuals have more trouble succeeding in conventional frameworks in academia and business, they are more likely to forge their own path by founding companies and pursuing self-employment.
It’s entirely possible that both these ideas are true. The more research that is published around mental health and entrepreneurship, the clearer view we have on the traits associated with creating successful businesses.
The more open the conversation is around mental health, the more we can create conditions in the workplace that empower neurodivergent individuals.
Source: Freeman, M.A., Staudenmaier, P.J., Zisser, M.R. et al. The prevalence and co-occurrence of psychiatric conditions among entrepreneurs and their families. Small Bus Econ 53, 323–342 (2019).
Data notes: Data was analyzed from 76 MBA student and faculty pool participants, 149 psychology students, and 110 entrepreneurs not affiliated with the university. Participants from either recruitment group who reported a history of self-employment or founding or co-founding a for-profit or non-profit business were categorized as entrepreneurs (n = 242).
Hat tip: We discovered this research via The Generalist who published a fantastic post on who becomes an entrepreneur.
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