The pandemic triggered an estimated global use of 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves every month. That’s a lot!
For the past two years, face masks have become one of the most prominent symbols of the coronavirus…
Photo via The Guardian
However, face masks aren’t only found on our face but also scattered across the planet’s beaches, streets and bodies of water.
According to NBC News, OceansAsia, a non-profit marine conservation advocacy organization recently conducted research about how many single-use face masks are likely to have entered the world’s oceans in 2020.
The organization estimates that more than 1.5 billion face masks entered oceans in 2020 resulting in an additional 4,680 to 6,240 metric tons or marine plastic pollution. Oh dear!
When single-use masks are not disposed of properly, they pose an environmental risk.
Single-use face masks both the disposable kind the general public wears and medical-grade surgical masks are often made with polypropylene plastic. When the plastic breaks up into smaller pieces, it can take as long as 450 years to decompose, according to Teale Phelps Bondaroff, director of research for OceansAsia.
So, it’s crucial to learn how to properly discard face masks in order to ensure they don’t end up in oceans, lakes and rivers!
Photo via Daily Sabah
According to Erin Simon, head of plastic waste and business at the World Wildlife Fund, the goal is to not change the disposable mask space as it is a key part of medical safety protocols and highlighted that experts more specifically advocate for the proper management of disposable face masks after they’re used.
Face mask pollution is harming the environment and here’s what WE CAN DO to help!
#1 Use Eco-Friendly Face Masks
Experts said reusable cloth face masks are a more sustainable option than single-use disposable masks and some companies further incorporate recycled fabric into their masks, as well as organic materials.
Always find face masks that meet the CDC’s guideline in regards to reusable face coverings and are made with the environment in mind.
#2 Dispose Face Masks Correctly!
Phelps Bondaroff said that the best way to mitigate the impacts of face mask pollution is disposing of them correctly and ensuring they do not enter the Earth’s ecosystem.
He said that it’s important to throw away face masks in garbage cans that have a lid and a garbage bag that will be tied together when it’s removed to keep them from falling out or blowing away.
It is also recommended to cut the straps of face masks’ ear loops before throwing them away. He said this could help prevent animals from getting tangled in the ear loops, and decrease the chances of them getting stuck on trees and plants.
However, he noted that it’s better to spend time finding a covered, lined garbage can.
Photo via Taiwan News
With increasing reports on inappropriate disposal of masks, it is urgent to recognise this potential environmental threat and prevent it from becoming the next plastic problem.
Let’s be more responsible, guys and take care of our beloved planet together!
By: Aishah Akashah Ahadiat