As the coronavirus pandemic continues around the world, the question of how to ensure face mask disposal is environmentally friendly remains. As Covid-19 waste increases, the issue becomes even more relevant.
In the UK, wearing a mask is required when entering all shops, supermarkets, salons, places of worship and other indoor settings. In a growing number of workplaces, masks are also compulsory, most notably within hospitals and health service providers.
These rules are in place to protect us from the virus, however that protection comes at a price for the environment. The surge in usage has contributed to a huge increase in single-use plastic waste. Some say the disposable face mask is the ‘new plastic bottle’. According to BSDHT estimates say globally we are using 129 billion disposable masks and 65 billion plastic gloves every month.
Last April, the UK government issued guidance on how to dispose of covid waste safely. They advised PPE should be thrown out with household waste, in a rubbish bag, sealed with a second rubbish bag. The outside bag should be securely tightened and kept away from other’s waste.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) advised on masks specifically, advocating removal from behind, not touching the mask and discarding immediately in a closed bin, following by hand cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
One UK-based company has come up with an innovative recycling method to tackle the environmental issue posed by a rise of single-use plastic masks and gloves. Reworked have launched their campaign #ReclaimTheMask. The aim of this is to collaborate with businesses who use large amounts of PPE on setting up a full-service recycling system. Companies can purchase a Covid waste/PPE bin made from 100% recycled plastic board supplied to collect all masks and gloves. ReWorked then organise regular waste pick-up, where the single-use plastics will be safely processed and contribute to making more boards, bins and other repurposed products.
You can help spread the word to make more people aware that disposable mask recycling is available – and make sure to use the #ReclaimTheMask hashtag too!
And finally, one other thing that we can all do when disposing of our used face masks is to cut the strings to stop birds and other wildlife getting tangled up in them. Simple but effective!
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