For the past 14 months, the world has struggled to find ways to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus but a new pandemic is hiding right in front of our faces! The use of masks, gloves, and other single-use plastics has increased dramatically and disrupted global efforts to reduce the use of plastics and decrease plastic pollution, an issue that has been documented by EP Online. As mask wearing and mask mandates were announced in an effort to reduce transmission, a new challenge began to emerge: What do we do with all these single-use masks? We’ve all seen them thrown on the ground in parking lots or
Buy Reusable Masks
Whether you are wearing masks by choice or by local or regional mandates, if you are still using disposable masks, it is time to consider switching to reusable, cloth masks. The efficacy of cloth masks has been documented by multiple organizations including Mayo Clinic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MIT Medical and University of Maryland Medical System. All of these organizations and academic institutions have drawn the same conclusion: Cloth masks are an effective solution to reduce transmission of coronavirus and COVID-19 in most environments and in non-patient-care settings. Reduce your waste production by switching from disposable, single-use masks to reusable cloth masks.
Responsibly Dispose of Your Used Mask
Don’t throw your mask on the ground! If you have made the choice to stick with single-use masks, make sure they are disposed of properly. Disposable masks do not require special disposal like sharps or medical waste. In this case, responsible disposal simply means making sure masks are thrown away in the trash, not left in parking lots, abandoned in shopping carts, or casually dropped outside of a retail store, school or gym.
Single use masks are typically made with polypropylene, a type of plastic, and are not biodegradable. Polypropylene can take hundreds of years to break down. Leaving masks on the ground is littering and it’s bad for the environment. When you are finished using a disposable mask, make sure it ends up in a trash can where it belongs.
Provide Additional Disposal Stations
Whether you are a business that had chosen to require customers wear mask or located in an area that has a mask mandate in effect, make sure you are providing your customers and guests with plenty of convenient options for mask disposal. Adding a few extra trash collection bins outside your doors to make disposal easier can dramatically reduce the amount of masks that end up scattered across your parking lot and property.
Abandoned masks are unsightly and bad for the environment. Adding a few trash cans and additional signage is an easy, cost effective solution to prevent the problem before it starts.
Make Earth-Friendly Choices
Plastic is generally the most cost effective option for single use products, and single use items are soaring in popularity because of concerns around COVID transmission. While it may be harder than ever to reduce reliance on these single-use, plastic items, we encourage everyone to remember to do what they can to reduce waste, choose reusable products and materials, opt to buy items with recyclable packaging and always recycle when possible.