While masks are essential for stopping the spread of Covid-19, the issue of disposable masks could be disastrous for our environment.
According to Iberdrola, there are alternatives to the disposable mask, but most people in the world are using masks made of TNT, which are practical and cheap, but which are not designed to be washed.
A disposable mask is made of non woven fabric (TNT), which is non toxic, but takes 400 to 450 years to break down. Because of the global increase in use, health authorities and environmentalists are concerned about this new type of pollution. Land and ocean ecosystems could be threatened by this pollution if we do not tackle this issue now.
Globally we are using 129 billion face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves every month, reports Independent.
So what is the correct way to dispose of these masks? The head pf Clean Seas, Dr. Laura Foster says “If you’re opting to wear a single-use mask, in line with government and WHO guidance, then please ensure to dispose of the mask correctly, by throwing it in the bin.”
These single-use masks, however, still end up in our rivers, oceans, environments, and landfills. Environmentalists urge everyone to avoid using single-use plastic masks when possible.
“My view is that there is no safe way to dispose of single-use face masks. Anything that’s been specifically created to be used just once and then thrown away, will either end up in landfill, or escape into nature as our waste infrastructure can’t cope with the volumes we produce,” says Amanda Keetley, founder of Less Plastic.
As stated by Greenpeace, unless you are in the front lines; such as a health or essential worker, experts state that you can avoid a disposable mask and use a reusable one instead. Wearing a reusable mask, which can be made at home, may sound like a small thing compared to the big picture, but it is actually a very critical and positive action you can take for yourself, for others, and for the environment.
Protecting people around us by wearing a face mask AND making sure we are not adding to our global issue of pollution by only wearing single-use face masks is a huge step to helping make our planet a better place.
A couple of tutorials on how to make a reusable face mask at home: