23 Jul 2020 - The Economist - As the world produces more protective equipment—and gorges on takeaways—pity the oceans
THE THAMES has always been a reflector of the times, says Lara Maiklem, a London “mudlark”. Ms Maiklem spends her days on the river’s foreshore foraging for history’s detritus, from Roman pottery to Victorian clay pipes. She can tell the time of year, she says, just by the type of rubbish she has to sift through: champagne bottles during the first week of January; footballs in summer. The year 2020 has left its own mark. Since the coronavirus reached Britain the mud has sprouted a crop of latex gloves.
In February, half a world away, Gary Stokes docked his boat on Hong Kong’s isolated Soko Island. Soko’s beaches are where OceansAsia, the conservation organisation he runs, sporadically records levels of plastic pollution. Mr Stokes says he is all too accustomed to finding the jetsam the modern world throws up, such as plastic drinks bottles and supermarket carrier-bags. But what he documented that day made news across Hong Kong: 70 surgical facemasks on a 100-metre stretch of beach. Having cleaned it up, he went back four days later. Like a stubborn weed, the masks had returned.
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