It is important that we recognise the importance of properly disposing of your face mask. We didn't think it could happen in our lifetimes, but it did. The pandemic has been raging around the world since early 2020. The good news is that medical researchers have gained a better understanding of how the coronavirus operates, and they are already working on effective vaccines and treatments.
However, until that vaccine or cure becomes widely available, the best way to reduce virus spread is to wear a face mask. Wearing a face mask that covers your nose and mouth and is sealed around the sides, when combined with social distancing, can effectively protect you from the virus. The level of coronavirus protection is determined by the type of mask worn. We all know this already.
The Environmental Consequences of Improper Face Mask Disposal
Face masks, even washable ones, are frequently discarded. Unfortunately, this poses a major environmental issue. Single-use masks are made of non-woven lightweight polypropylene, polycarbonate, polyester, or polyethylene. These materials, while keeping pathogens out, are made of plastic. Plastics, as we all know, are non-biodegradable, making their disposal a major global issue.
According to recent disposal and recycling statistics, face masks have replaced "plastic bottles." According to Green Matters, over 129 billion face masks are discarded every month because of the coronavirus. That's a massive amount of plastic waste that ends up in our already polluted oceans. Marine animals mistake these masks for food, which causes them to get stuck, eat them, choke, and die.
Masks can degrade into microplastic fibres as well. When these fish are harvested and prepared for human consumption, the microplastics they ingest can pass through our bodies, potentially harming our health.
According to recycling statistics, approximately 20% of plastics can be recycled. Unfortunately, disposable face masks and surgical masks are not recyclable because they are intended for single use. They must be discarded after they have been used.
Used face masks worn in public are considered household waste and are not disposed of as medical waste. Face masks should be disposed of properly to reduce their environmental impact. Here are the steps for doing so.
Soiled, damp, crumpled, or soiled single-use masks must be discarded immediately.
With care, remove the mask from your face. Hold it by the ear loops rather than the mask cover. To reduce the possibility of shaking loose the trapped pathogens, proceed with caution.
With a pair of scissors, cut the ear loops off. There are fewer chances of the mask entangling wildlife if it ends up in the environment without the ear loops.
Do not dispose of the used mask in the trash. Instead, seal it in a plastic bag. A larger bag can be used to collect a certain number of face masks. Other disposable items worn by a coronavirus positive individual, such as gloves, should also be placed in the plastic bag.
Close and seal the plastic bag, then place it in the trash can for disposal.
Alternatively, contact a company that specialises in hazardous waste disposal. These companies can dispose of all types of solid, hazardous, and medical waste.
Each time you discard a mask, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. The soap takes 20 seconds to break down the virus's protective fatty envelope.
When it comes to disposing of masks, medical facilities, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, and other institutions follow different procedures. Face masks worn in hospitals or by patients must follow rules about how to get rid of medical waste.
Recently, the Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other pandemic-related agencies issued advisories directing medical personnel to reserve surgical, KN95, and other specialised masks. Unless they are taking care of a sick person at home, most people don't need the level of protection that specialised masks offer.
Do you want to boost recycling rates? Then put on cloth masks. You can even make your own out of old clothes. Alternatively, if you are artistic, you can create your own as a fashion statement. You can simply wash your cloth mask after each use. You can reuse it once it has dried.
Face masks are required for our own protection against the coronavirus. However, the widespread use and disposal of face masks, which were previously restricted to medical personnel, is putting a strain on the environment. To ensure a sustainable environment, solutions such as using cloth masks, conducting information drives, and cleaning up shorelines are required.