The environmental impact of disposable masks

We all care about the environment and let’s consider the environmental reality of millions of used disposable face masks. Where are they being disposed of, how biodegradable are they and what impact will this have on ecosystems worldwide.

COVID -19 masks and the environment

Ecological Disaster: The worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has resulted in an unprecedented production and purchase of disposable masks. This has already started to harm the environment. Almost all face masks are made of polypropylene, a plastic which is not easily biodegradable. In a hospital environment a mask is worn for only a few hours and then discarded. A health professional could easily use four or five masks a day! These discarded masks now pose a pollution threat to a serious number of habitats especially marine and the alarm needs to be sounded.

Disposing of COVID-19 face masks

The challenge we face with COVID-19 goes way beyond testing, quarantining and treating infected persons. There are mountains of hospital waste piling up worldwide and a large part of this are used disposable masks. Masks and other protective gear used by medical staff and patients being treated should be sterilized and incinerated at high temperatures in the correct facilities The long and short of it is that hospital incinerators simply can’t cope with this increase, and this demand will continue to rise.

If we also consider millions of masks are finding their way into domestic waste disposal which is totally inadequately equipped to deal with this. Our rubbish contractors are being directly exposed to the potential of contaminated masks with no protection. Their job is already high risk and challenging and we are making it more hazardous for them

The public need to be educated in proper face mask disposal and the hazard it poses to them and others.

Follow the step by step instructions of the manufacturer and the basics are – folding the mask with the contaminated part facing inwards, roll it up and wrap in a sealed plastic bag before disposal.

Reusable COVID Face Masks

By making use of reusable masks the environmental impact is radically reduced. Use masks like SafeMasks and make a difference.

Here are detailed instructions on removal and sterilization of reusable face masks:

https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/Cloth-face-masks-in-case-shortage-surgical-masks-respirators2020-03-26.pdf

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