Sunday, March 26

Bad disposal of masks can lead to an “environmental disaster”

Mask waste increased 9,000% between March and October 2020.

Mask waste increased 9,000% between March and October 2020.

Erik Mclean / Pexels

The use of masks as an element of protection naturally increased with the pandemic, however, there is little guidance on how to recycle them safelyTherefore, if disposal practices are not improved, “a environmental disaster”.

This is what the director of Revolutions Plastics at the University of Portsmouth (United Kingdom) points out, Steve Fletcher, in relation to a study headed by said center, which indicates that mask residue increased 9,000% between March and October 2020.

The findings

The study indicates that during the analyzed period, more than two million pieces of this type of waste were collected in eleven countries, including Spain, Germany, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

For their research, the experts relied on the results of two open source databases: “COVID-19 Government Response Tracker” and a garbage collection application called “Litterati.”

The research published by Nature Sustainability also shows a direct relationship between national legislation and the appearance of waste that included masks and other personal protective equipment, such as gloves, related to covid-19.

Using these databases, they were able to map the political responses of the countries (severity of confinements, policies for the use of masks) and obtain a line of the proportions of use of these products from September 2019 to the first six months of the year. pandemic.

The study indicates that between March and May of last year, when the most severe confinements occurred, the dumping of masks was scarce, but it increased.

Between June and October, when the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the use of masks to facilitate social interaction and confinements were relaxed, the proliferation of these items “increased dramatically.”

The research team urged governments to establish policies and legislation for the disposal of used masks when they are made mandatory.

“An environmental disaster is looming”

Fletcher, for his part, stressed that “despite millions of people being told to wear masks, little guidance has been given on how to safely dispose of or recycle them. If disposal practices are not improved, an environmental disaster is looming, ”he said.

Most masks are made from long-lasting plastic materials And, when disposed of, they can persist in the environment for decades or hundreds of years.

The team points out that the uncontrolled presence of masks in the environment can act, in the short term, as a potential viral vector.

In the long term, items disposed of in the environment, if made of plastic, will end up becoming microplastics, with the potential to enter the food chain.

In addition, large animals can suffer complications if they eat or become entangled in them and suffocate smaller organisms and plant life.

Roberts indicated that it is necessary to avoid that “this pandemic garbage becomes a lasting legacy” and considered that the new policies should have a well-structured advice and, above all, with infrastructures that help eliminate waste.

With information from DW.

Also read:
They find a dead penguin after ingesting an N95 mask in Brazil
Travel to the United States: What you should know before getting on the plane in times of COVID-19
Delta variant and travel: 5 items to protect yourself if you are going to fly soon

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