THERE are calls for more people to dispose of their used face masks responsibly after discarded PPE has been found in a Swindon nature reserve.

Phil Jefferies said he stopped counting after collecting more than 10 face masks last Sunday when completing his weekly litter-pick around Seven Fields Nature Reserve in Penhill.

“I’ve noticed a big increase recently in the amount of face masks left lying around,” said Pill who completes litter-picks on behalf of the council.

“Obviously people are having to wear masks more nowadays, but people need to take more care with what they do with them,” he added.

"Especially these disposable ones because they are made of some sort of plastic material so they don’t degrade. They will stay around for years and years and years. The ties on them can get caught up with birds and animals and do all sort of damage to wildlife.”

Phil, who is also the event director for Seven Fields parkrun when it is held, normally litter-picks the nature reserve and streets surrounding it.

“There was a couple of masks that were actually stuffed into the hedge line in one of the fields,” said Phil.

“They had obviously been deliberately put there. You could make a case for some of them accidentally being dropped or falling out of people’s pockets or bags and being blown about. But these were deep inside a bramble bush. They were put in there on purpose.”

Seven Fields Nature Reserve consists of 100 acres of countryside split into seven fields lying to the west of Penhill, between Haydon Wick with Abbey Meads to the north.

As well as the risk to the wildlife Phil is concerned about the possibility of the litter spreading the virus.

He said: “It’s bad enough having to go round and collect other people’s rubbish. But then having to go and pick up potentially contaminated PPE because people just have no responsibility to dispose of it correctly, it’s very annoying.

“Myself and the other people who do litter picks do so because we want to keep the area clear, but it’s getting to the point where we’ve got to think is it safe for us to carry on doing this.

“It’s irresponsible people who are not thinking of others and only themselves," said Phil.

He called for everyone to dispose of their face masks responsibly.

“Just take them home,” he said.

“You’ve carried them to where you want to go, so just take them home and dispose of them properly. Sure it’s not too much of a hardship – they don’t weigh a lot.

“Let’s look after not only ourselves but also the wildlife in the area because that’s what a lot of people enjoy seeing over there in Seven Fields,” Phil said.