Sukirti, a voracious reader of fiction, who also has an avidity to give her thoughts the shape of words, is a graduate in agriculture. Apart from being a devotee of words, she loves to express herself through dance. She enjoys writing about environmental issues such as climate change and sustainable agriculture.

Source: RCNi

Medical workers have become dependent on face masks and other personal protective equipment since the Covid-19 pandemic began last year. As a result of Covid-19, disposable N95 masks have been in high demand.

Why Should We Wear Masks?

  • Wearing a mask in areas where sufficient distance is not feasible, such as public transportation, most likely reduces the spread of virus-loaded droplets and therefore the risk of transferring virus.
  • Unquestionably, patients who have been exposed to a virus can pass it on to others, even if they don’t show any clinical symptoms yet. The amount of virus particles that can be spread by an asymptomatic person at a minimum safe distance is not known with certainty.

What Are Masks Doing To The Environment?

Source: The Hindu

During the Covid-19 pandemic, up to 7,200 tonnes of medical waste is expected to be generated every day, most of which is disposable mask. While the pandemic may be subsiding, health care workers are expected to continue wearing masks most of the time.

According to a new MIT study that calculated the financial and environmental costs of several different mask usage scenarios, that toll could be dramatically reduced by adopting reusable masks. Compared to using a new mask for every patient encounter, decontaminating regular N95 masks so that health care workers can wear them for more than one day reduces costs and environmental waste by at least 75 percent.

Hazardous To People And Animals

Corona virus can be spread to waste collectors, litter pickers, and members of the public who come across discarded masks first. For example, we know that a plastic surgical mask can keep the virus alive for seven days in certain conditions.

This will have an impact on animals and plants in the medium to long-term. Due to its sheer volume, plastic waste has the potential to devastate ecosystems. Some animals, on the other hand, are unable to distinguish between plastic items and their prey, resulting in them to choke on pieces of litter.

Source: CGTN Europe

Animals can become malnourished even if they do not choke because the materials fill their stomachs but do not offer nourishment. As the masks or gloves begin to disintegrate, smaller animals may become trapped in the elastic within the masks or gloves.

Plastics disintegrate over time into smaller bits, and the longer garbage is in the environment, the faster it decomposes. Plastics degrade into micro-plastics, which then degrade into even smaller nano-plastics. These microscopic particles and fibres are frequently long-lasting polymers that can build up in food chains. Just one mask can produce millions of particles, each with the potential to also carry chemicals and bacteria up the food chain and potentially even into humans.

What You Should Do?

Even with reusable masks, the design and cleaning method you choose makes a difference. To quantify their overall environmental impact, the University College London team looked at the manufacturing, use, and disposal of disposable, reusable, and reusable with disposable filters masks. Over the course of a year, they discovered that machine washing reusable masks without filters had the least impact.

Source: The Conversation

With this in mind, we should take the following precautions to minimize the negative effects of wearing a face mask:

  1. Use reusable masks that don’t have disposable filters. They should be machine washed on a regular basis, according to the fabric’s recommendations.

  2. Carry an extra mask in case the one you’re wearing breaks. This way, you won’t have to use or buy a disposable mask if something goes wrong with the one you’re wearing.

  3. If you must use a disposable mask, take it home (perhaps in a bag if you must remove it) and immediately dispose of it in a bin with a cover. If this isn’t possible, dispose of it properly in a public bin.

  4. Disposable masks should not be recycled. They can become stuck in specialised recycling equipment, posing a biohazard to garbage workers.

  5. Don’t litter them in any way!!!

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