Single-use or reusable masks?
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
The impact of single-use masks on our health and the environment
We used to talk about the environment
2019 has been a great milestone year for our planet voice. From the global parades that occupied the squares around the globe to the growth of green parties, the word ‘sustainability’ has been on everybody’s lips. We talked about the high temperatures that burned Australia and Amazonia or the floods that submerged Jakarta and we also talked about ecological turns and ONU’s sustainable goals. We didn’t only talk more about sustainability; we also changed our way to do it. According to The Guardian, medias had to adapt their language to people’s growing sensitivity. In a way or another, we are forced to reflect on our everyday actions.
Yes, but COVID first
Today we have a more scaring topic occupying newspapers front page. Fighting the pandemic is our priority: if we don’t have health, we have nothing. While the most powerful economies froze, we saw cities getting empty and hospitals getting full of new cases. If 2019 was the sustainability year, 2020 is destined to be the health-care year. Our question is: can we afford a health crisis that aggravates the environmental crisis? Or rather: is there a way to transform the health emergency in a lesson for us to let our planet to breathe a bit?
Where do our masks go?
Use of mask has spread around the globe becoming mandatory in many countries. Most used masks are single-use and composed by polyesters and polypropylene, materials that derive from plastic and can’t be recycled. If the world population really started to use even only one mask per day (which is highly unsafe since the surgical masks have to be changed every 4 hours), wastes quantity would become terrifying.
These wastes, apart from being dangerous because of their viral charge, they are a huge menace for our ecosystem. Dispersing surgical masks in the seas means compromising fishes health, which is the primary source of protein for a billion people. China is already facing the consequences: researchers are finding hundreds of masks carries by the seas to the costs of Hong Kong. Even if we manage to avoid dispersing single-use masks, we would still have an impact in terms of atmospheric emissions that pollutes the air we breathe and amplifies climate change effects.
Reusable masks and other solutions
Focusing on our health forgetting our planet’s wellbeing is contradictory. We can’t live healthily if we walk on unhealthy lands. Environmental disasters always affect its habitants. To pollute means also breathing toxic air: every year 4.2 million people dye because of pollution-related diseases. This problem involves us more than we think, today 91% of the world population lives where air quality exceeds World Health Organization standards.
Reducing wastes is crucial, especially when wastes are made of toxic and non-recyclable materials. Turning to reusable masks means taking care of the planet. Studying U-Mask performance we saw that the environmental impact is reduced by 98%. To oppose the plastic waste coming from Covid19 emergency, the World Economic Forum suggests upholding companies that promote recycling with long term sustainable goals. The importance is managing to satisfy health criteria as well as sustainability standards, protecting our health at 360 degrees.