Eliminate Single-use Masks

Single-use has become a societal norm. Everything from our food and drinks to our cleaning supplies – and these days even our masks – is designed to be used once and discarded. The reason for this is without a doubt convenience. The question is: while convenient now, how will our single-use obsession influence the environment now and in the future? Do we ever stop to consider where the soda bottle or more relevant today, the masks we discard end up?

Let’s imagine for a second that we wore single-use clothes every day and at the end of the day we would discard our day’s clothes on the floor of our room, just to wear a new set of clothes the next day. How long would it take for the floor to be covered under discarded clothes?

The same principle applies to single-use masks, each one you discard ends up somewhere, it might not be in your room but it might just end up in the ocean, river, or worse strangling an animal or getting ingested by an animal. The single-use masks that we discard every day are worsening the problem. Something has to change.

The distinction between a reusable mask and a single-use mask is as the words indicate the design with regards to reusability. Reusable masks are designed to be worn, disinfected, and worn again whereas single-use masks are designed to be used once and thereafter discarded.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the production and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks have increased dramatically. It is estimated that the UK could be sending approximately as many as 54 million single-use masks to the landfill every single day. To put this in perspective you can imagine the single-use masks used in less than 2 days across the UK are enough to cover the whole of London. Another way of looking at this enormous amount of plastic waste is imagining that in one day the UK discards single-use masks equivalent to the weight of 100 cars. [1]

While PPE is indispensable in the fight against COVID-19, the improper disposal of single-use plastic PPE is now posing a huge environmental risk to the planet. The improper disposal has been a result of a combination of things such as composition and risk of contamination and infection. [2] Whether we want to believe it or not face mask will most likely be part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future, which is why eliminating single-use masks and choosing a reusable mask is not only sensible for the environment but also when considering costs.

Single-use has become a societal norm. Everything from our food and drinks to our cleaning supplies – and these days even our masks – is designed to be used once and discarded. The reason for this is without a doubt convenience. The question is: while convenient now, how will our single-use obsession influence the environment now and in the future? Do we ever stop to consider where the soda bottle or more relevant today, the masks we discard end up?

Let’s imagine for a second that we wore single-use clothes every day and at the end of the day we would discard our day’s clothes on the floor of our room, just to wear a new set of clothes the next day. How long would it take for the floor to be covered under discarded clothes?

The same principle applies to single-use masks, each one you discard ends up somewhere, it might not be in your room but it might just end up in the ocean, river, or worse strangling an animal or getting ingested by an animal. The single-use masks that we discard every day are worsening the problem. Something has to change.

The distinction between a reusable mask and a single-use mask is as the words indicate the design with regards to reusability. Reusable masks are designed to be worn, disinfected, and worn again whereas single-use masks are designed to be used once and thereafter discarded.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the production and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks have increased dramatically. It is estimated that the UK could be sending approximately as many as 54 million single-use masks to the landfill every single day. To put this in perspective you can imagine the single-use masks used in less than 2 days across the UK are enough to cover the whole of London. Another way of looking at this enormous amount of plastic waste is imagining that in one day the UK discards single-use masks equivalent to the weight of 100 cars. [1]

While PPE is indispensable in the fight against COVID-19, the improper disposal of single-use plastic PPE is now posing a huge environmental risk to the planet. The improper disposal has been a result of a combination of things such as composition and risk of contamination and infection. [2] Whether we want to believe it or not face mask will most likely be part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future, which is why eliminating single-use masks and choosing a reusable mask is not only sensible for the environment but also when considering costs.


Environmental Effect


Environmental Effect

The research on COVID-19 waste and the effects thereof on the environment is shocking, to say the least. Single-use masks are made with plastics that can technically be recycled but the composition and possible contamination with saliva or nasal discharge make recycling impractical. Secondary infection from disposed of masks is probable due to the fact that the Coronavirus can stay on the surface of the mask anywhere between 24 hours up to 7 days. Since recycling is not an option these single-use masks are treated as general waste and therefore discarded in landfills. Due to the composition of these single- masks, it can take up to 450 years to decompose. [2]

Another problem associated with tonnes of single-use masks in landfills is the danger to wildlife. Since the beginning of the lockdown, one of the rescue organizations in the UK has rescued more than 900 animals caught in litter such as disposable masks. Not only is the disposal of single-use masks a treat to wildlife getting caught or tangled but we should also consider the amount of wildlife that ingests this waste. [3, 4]

Single-use masks are also ending up in oceans, most likely through severs and rivers. The accumulation of masks in the oceans threatens other types of wildlife. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was estimated that annually between 8 and 12 million tonnes of plastic waste entered the ocean from land. This resulted in 100 000 marine mammals and turtles, over a million seabirds, and even more fish and other marine life being killed every year. Sadly with the rise in plastic pollution from COVID-19 waste these statistics are expected to rise. The reasons why marine life is in danger is because of either entanglement in the masks or because the fish, dolphins, turtles, etc. see the masks as a food source which results in a blocked digestive tract and in turn leads to starvation. At the current rate of single-use mask disposal, we are threatening marine ecosystems and harming marine life. [2]

The research on COVID-19 waste and the effects thereof on the environment is shocking, to say the least. Single-use masks are made with plastics that can technically be recycled but the composition and possible contamination with saliva or nasal discharge make recycling impractical. Secondary infection from disposed of masks is probable due to the fact that the Coronavirus can stay on the surface of the mask anywhere between 24 hours up to 7 days. Since recycling is not an option these single-use masks are treated as general waste and therefore discarded in landfills. Due to the composition of these single- masks, it can take up to 450 years to decompose. [2]

Another problem associated with tonnes of single-use masks in landfills is the danger to wildlife. Since the beginning of the lockdown, one of the rescue organizations in the UK has rescued more than 900 animals caught in litter such as disposable masks. Not only is the disposal of single-use masks a treat to wildlife getting caught or tangled but we should also consider the amount of wildlife that ingests this waste. [3, 4]

Single-use masks are also ending up in oceans, most likely through severs and rivers. The accumulation of masks in the oceans threatens other types of wildlife. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was estimated that annually between 8 and 12 million tonnes of plastic waste entered the ocean from land. This resulted in 100 000 marine mammals and turtles, over a million seabirds, and even more fish and other marine life being killed every year. Sadly with the rise in plastic pollution from COVID-19 waste these statistics are expected to rise. The reasons why marine life is in danger is because of either entanglement in the masks or because the fish, dolphins, turtles, etc. see the masks as a food source which results in a blocked digestive tract and in turn leads to starvation. At the current rate of single-use mask disposal, we are threatening marine ecosystems and harming marine life. [2]

References

[1] Environment Journal. UK sending 1.6 billion face masks to landfill every month. https://environmentjournal.online/articles/uk-sending-1-6-billion-face-masks-to-landfill-every-month/

[2] Phelps Bondaroff, Teale, and Cooke, Sam. (2020, December). “Masks on the Beach: The impact of COVID-19 on marine plastic pollution.” OceansAsia https://oceansasia.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Marine-Plastic-Pollution-FINAL.pdf

[3] Green Peace. Single-use face masks are hurting wildlife – here’s what you can do about it. https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/single-use-face-masks-hurting-wildlife-what-you-can-do/

[4] RSPCA. ‘Snip the straps’ off face masks as Great British September Clean launches. https://www.rspca.org.uk/-/news-face-masks-spring-clean

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Join so many others

We are here to help you Rethink your face mask needs!

Call Us Now!

South Africa: +27-21-203-0028
South Africa: +27-87-095-3232
Request a quote

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