We have all seen them – from our beaches to parking lots to sidewalks. The daunting littered single use face mask.
COVID-19 has dramatically shifted our mindset and the way we live, and unfortunately – triggered an estimated use of 129 billion disposable face masks every month throughout the world.
Little has been said on how to dispose of masks – but one thing is for sure, throwing them on the ground is not the right way to go.
Single use face masks are made of polypropylene plastic. Plastics break down into smaller pieces over time, and the longer litter is in the environment, the more it will decompose. Plastics first break down into microplastics. These tiny particles and fibers are forever-lived polymers that accumulate in food chains. Just one mask can produce millions of particles, each with the potential to also carry chemicals and bacteria. Like drinking bottles, fast-food containers and other plastic material that ends up in the ocean, masks collect algae, attracting fish who mistakenly ingest plastic fibers.
Like plastic bags, turtles mistake submerged masks as jellyfish, and will eat them. Additionally, rain will wash the single use mask into a storm drain, which leads to a canal – flowing to the Intracoastal – ending up in the ocean, suffocating ecosystems.
There is still time to solve the problems caused by improperly throwing away masks, and it starts with you. Take these simple steps to reduce the impact of wearing a face mask:
- Invest in reusable masks without disposable filters and machine wash them regularly (the County has sent your household at least 3).
- Carry a spare mask so if something goes wrong with the mask you are wearing – you don’t need to use or buy a disposable mask.
- DON’T LITTER.
- Educate your family and friends.
- If you must wear a single use mask – cut off the strings before you discard it to prevent animals from getting entangled. Think 6 pack rings we learned about as children!
You can be safe and environmentally conscious at the same time. Invest in a future of reduced waste by giving up single use plastics.