The waste of discarded face masks is an unseen and neglected danger we are having during the pandemic. Reports like “more masks than jellyfish” are not an exaggeration but a sad reality that we see surfacing in worse ways by the day.
You may be calling it "disposable," but the plastic doesn’t literally go away as you discard a mask. A study suggests that 3.4 billion disposable face shields and face masks get discarded on a daily basis. Asia throws 1.8 billion masks every day, which makes up the highest quantity of the masks being discarded on a global scale.
Problems for Animals and Humans
Animals have their habitats destroyed because of these masks and shields. The waste proves to be fatal for the falcons, seagulls, and swans, according to studies.
In the municipal systems, these wipes, gloves, and face masks are not getting recycled. What’s more, they contain different polymer materials like polyester and polypropylene that don’t get recycled and cause breakdowns in machinery.
Problems for Ecosystem
It is a complicated time to manage this PPE litter amidst the pandemic. The total amount of plastic waste getting into the oceans is estimated to get three times more in the next two decades, and we have no real solution for this. If all enterprises promise to utilize recycled plastics, this projection is expected to go down by only 7 percent.
What’s more, the pandemic has resulted in the increase in the manufacturing of disposable products as there is a requirement for takeout food and with a lifting of the ban on disposable plastics and shopping bags. Also, we see that there is a partial chance of shuttering one-third of the recycling enterprises in the US.
Although there is a great danger visible everywhere around and the consequences are too big to reverse, there remains a need for action from all of us. For example, make sure not to litter aimlessly, even when it comes to PPE. Also, it is important to wear cloth masks whenever possible instead of plastic masks. Also, make sure you seal used PPE in a plastic bag and then put it out as litter, so it doesn’t get mixed with other trash.