Disposable Masks and Deterioration of Ecology

What do you do with disposable masks? What else to do? We throw. Aren't we? But do we throw in the right place? The answer is a big NO. Many people throw the disposable masks in their environment.


People throw away 30 lakh disposable masks every minute. It simply means that, 432 crore masks are being thrown away daily.


Globally, 1290 billion masks are thrusted in the ground as landfill in a month, according to a study by the University of Southern Denmark in Denmark, Laura Mayers wrote in an article for ABC News.

What is a mask?

A mask is a shield that protects one person’s breath from entering another person’s nose. Lockdown, mask, social space, and vaccination have become a day-today vocabulary nowadays.


It is imperative that these are mandatory for a better future and a healthier well-being. But now ecologists warn us about a solid waste, ie, masks thrown away in our environment.

Warning

If the present situation goes on like this, our ecosystem will not be a suitable place to live. The public is urged to use sustainable alternatives to blue and white masks as soon as possible.


"When we throw these masks on sidewalks or roads, they become more likely to fall into the water," said Pip Kiernan, President of‘ Let’s Clean Australia. We picked up thousands of masks like this on ‘Let’s Clean Australia’ Day in August this year, ” he added.

“Masks are made of a variety of plastics like polypropylene, polyethylene and vinyl that are not good for human health. If these are thrown into our environment, they will take 450 years to decompose. Animals and birds are the most affected. So these plastic masks should not be thrown down. ” he added further.


Similarly, Rachel Nasplezes, a spokeswoman for Healthy Land and Water in Queensland, shares her concern.


“Our water purification team regularly finds plastic masks in many places. Some people throw these masks as trash. No one touches it for fear of infection. They are also very easy to fly in the air and reach our waterways.”


Cloth Mask

PPE, also known as Personal Protective Equipment, gloves and sanitiser bottles have been used by medical professionals and the general public, since the beginning of Covid-19. There is no denying about it. However, a study on plastic solid waste indicates that 16 lakh tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day since the onset of the corona infection.


“If you have a cloth mask with disposable filters, use it. Change once in three or four days. However, N95 masks can be used where there is a high risk of corona spread.” Said Elaine Pretorius, executive director of Limestone Coast Local Health Network's Medical Services.


Trash Bins

“People are happy about wearing masks. I thank them for that. But we also see masks being thrown around recklessly. We need to put them in the appropriate bins. ” said Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath in an interview.


Before putting the masks in the trash, cut off their ropes so as to prevent harm to animals and birds.


Alternative idea

RMIT University has come up with a sustainable idea.

“Used plastic masks can be cut into small pieces and used to make roads. In our study we found that when laying roads and sidewalks, adding plastic masks pieces may increase their stability and flexibility. 30 lakh masks can be used to build one kilo-meter of road. ” Said Mohammad Saberian, a researcher and engineer at RMIT University.


Although the technology has yet to be developed, preliminary research has been successful.


Which mask is best?

The Queensland Department of Health advises that a ‘one-time use’ doctor's mask is the best. But, “Any mask is good for nothing to wear. Any mask can be used to reduce infection. P2 or N95 are suitable for use in medical facilities. If you need to be close to covid patients, it is best to use them.”


“But that doesn't mean they should be worn in the general community. It is better to wear something that is available. Never wear a blue and white surgical mask again and again. ” Epidemiologist Dr. Says Paul Griffin.


"It's good to wear mask, along with hand washing, maintaining social space, and covid test." he added.


The Queensland Medical Service warns that a scarf, handkerchief or some other fabric is not substitute for a mask.

When can I wash and use a cloth mask?

Dr Griffin says the more you wash your cloth mask the better.

"Make sure you wash it once in every two days. ” he added further.


How many days will it take to wear the mask?

“This condition will be not just for a few weeks or months, but for a few more years. You have to get used to it. Even if there is no lockdown, if you can maintain social distancing, then please wear mask, ”Dr Griffin insisted.


What does the World Health Organization say about baby masks?

The World Health Organization states as follows:

1. Children under the age of five should not wear a mask.

2. For children between the ages of six and 11, a risk-based approach should be used.

3. The mask should be approached based on the severity of the risk of transmitting the infection, the child's ability to wear the appropriate mask, adult supervision, the local social and cultural environment, and the home environment of the adult.

4. Adult mask use principles should apply to children and adolescents twelve years of age or older.

5. Special consideration is needed for immunocompromised children, children with other cancers, and underdeveloped children.


What should you do?

1. Use reusable masks without filters. Be sure to rinse them regularly with a washing machine.

2. Carry an alternative mask than the one you are wearing. If there is a problem with the first one then you can use the alternative one.

3. Don’t forget to put the used 'throw away mask' in a bag and bring it home.

4. Throw the used mask in the trash can with the lid on. If that doesn’t work, put it in the general trash can.

5. Do not put masks in the recycling bin. They can get stuck in recycling equipment. It can even be life threatening for waste workers.

6. Finally, do not throw in the trail. They can mix with waterways and return to you.

*****


References:

  1. Seselja, Edwina & Mackintosh, Lachlan. (2021 Aug 14). Queenslanders urged to dispose of masks properly as the mandated PPE clogs waterways. ABS Radio Brisbane. Retrieved fromhttps://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-08-14/queenslanders-urged-to-dispose-of-masks-properly-/100375668 as on 14.08.2021

  2. Mayers, Laura. (2021 Aug 9). Disposable face masks prompt anti-waste campaingers to call for sustainable alternatives. ABC South East SA. Retrieved from https://amp.abc.net.au/article/100361114 as on 10.08.2021

  3. Nothling, Lily. (2021 Aug 11). Cloth masks or surgical masks? Eitherway, you’ll be wearing one for ‘years to come’. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-08-11/qld-covid-face-mask-hygiene-cloth-vs-surgical/100363746 as on 15.08.2021

  4. https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-face-masks-an-environmental-disaster-that-might-last-generations-144328

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