The Case for Reusable Masks: Disposable Mask Waste Surges
So many of our day-to-day activities have changed in the past 9 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic including our work, our travel, and our leisure. Though many things seem like they’ve been taken away this year, there are certain things that have been added to our everyday lives, one of the most significant being the face mask.
Though the daily habit of wearing a face mask isn’t completely abnormal in some other countries, Americans aren’t used to it and the transition has been rocky. At this point in the pandemic, a good majority of people have made the switch from a disposable mask to a reusable one for one reason or another, but many Americans still utilize disposable masks daily and the effects on the environment have already been staggering.
How much plastic waste is the pandemic creating?
Visitors to grocery stores and restaurants are required to wear a mask to gain entry, but many citizens have increased their PPE, or personal protective equipment, to include plastic gloves as well. This means that the number of disposable masks and gloves being not only thrown away but littered across the world has grown exponentially since March, not to mention the rise in disposable takeout materials being used as more and more people are ordering in.
If all PPE items were properly disposed of, it would help the immediate issue at least somewhat. However, if even 1% of the face masks currently being used across the world are disposed of improperly, that translates to over 10 million masks littering the streets and clogging the oceans.
Unfortunately, the public health crisis caused by COVID-19 has taken a great deal of attention away from efforts to reduce single-use plastic globally and has even reversed some of the work that’s already been done with its abrupt spikes in plastic usage and production.
What risks do disposable face masks pose?
Disposable face masks and other PPE items are similar to any single-use plastic waste in that many animals, particularly marine life, will mistake them for food, causing obvious health complications and even death for many creatures. Additionally, the ear loops on disposable face masks can become entangled with the legs of marine birds and other animals, causing serious injuries and inability to hunt for food.
Single-use face masks are made of durable materials because they’re designed for medical use, meaning they need to be effective yet lightweight and easily disposable. Though they work well for their intended use, the qualities that make them effective in medical facilities make them especially harmful when used throughout the world in such large quantities. Disposable face masks contain a great deal of polypropylene, a type of plastic that takes hundreds of years to degrade and releases toxic substances during the degradation process. This means billions more microplastics in our air, soil, and oceans for generations to come.
More information about face masks and the rise of plastic waste
- Where did 5,500 tonnes of discarded face masks end up?
- The Archaeology of the Disposable Mask
- Your Used Mask Needs to Make It to the Trash Can
- Accumulation of plastic waste during COVID-19
- Coronavirus: Disposable masks 'causing enormous plastic waste'
- 'More masks than jellyfish': coronavirus waste ends up in ocean
- Five things you should know about disposable masks and plastic pollution
How can I help?
Though the rapidly increased production and use of disposable face masks has been detrimental to the earth, there is a solid reason behind it: public safety. However, you can still follow the safety protocol of the COVID-19 pandemic without purchasing or using disposable face masks. Reusable cloth face masks aren’t only better for the environment, they’re more comfortable and fit more snugly than disposable face masks. In fact, the CDC actually recommends that the general public choose a reusable face mask over its disposable counterpart.
Duebest offers a variety of reusable face masks designed with lightweight and breathable blend of cotton and linen, making the experience of wearing a face mask everyday much more comfortable. Plus, with multiple colors to choose from, you can express yourself and accessorize while contributing to public health and safety and doing your part for the environment.
Duebest began with two best friends over one bowl of egg noodles! We were at a restaurant in lower Manhattan when Daphne pulled out her own personal set of chopsticks. We never would have guessed that this small gesture would spark a whole chain of events! Today, we're doing our best to support the zero waste movement through our line of sustainably sourced products including our on-the-go reusable wooden cutlery set, reusable mesh produce bags, silicone stretch lids, and our reusable glass straw with case.