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Clean Up Australia Day has COVID-19 litter in its sights this year, with a disgraceful amount of discarded masks and extra coffee cups and takeaway food packaging in desperate need of removal.

Clean Up Australia Day – the country’s largest community-based environmental event on Sunday 6 March – has launched a citizen science project to measure the extent of Australia’s face mask litter.

Australians are urged to sign up early as the event goes ahead after a two year break due to COVID-19.

According to organisers, the last two years have seen significant increases in single-use plastics along with face masks, takeaway coffee cups and food packaging increasingly littering public places. Clean Up Australia Chairman Pip Kiernan said people’s changed habits during the pandemic ‘haven’t been kind on the environment’.

“Surges in online shopping, meal delivery services and the use of disposable face masks and coffee cups mean the environment is feeling the after-effects of the pandemic in ways not seen before,” added Ms Kiernan.

This year Clean Up Australia Day volunteers are being asked to tally the number of face masks they collect and enter them on a national database.

“Plastics in disposable masks can take many years to break down and researchers have warned that single-use masks could be releasing chemical pollutants and micro-plastics into the environment”, said Ms Kiernan.

All registered volunteers for Clean Up Australia Day can join the citizen science project to measure discarded face masks. Registration is easy and community-based participants receive a free Clean Up kit containing gloves and bags and other resources, with packs for individuals, families or groups available.

If you’d like to register for Clean Up Australia day, please visit www.cleanup.org.au