Over the last year, masks have become our lifeline—and our ticket, according to many to some type of “normalcy.”
They’ve allowed us to go in public to shop, go to work, and in some cases send our kids to school and gather with friends and loved ones.
Despite all their merits, however, masks have also created a dire situation for the environment.
Research repeatedly shows that mask use can decrease the spread of Covid; therefore adoption is high. The problem, of course, isn’t that people are wearing masks. It’s what they’re doing with disposable masks.
Some masks make their way back into cars, purses, and book bags. Others, disposable ones, however, suffer a different fate. Some are carefully placed in garbage cans, which results in millions upon millions of them left to decompose in landfills. This alone is a problem. Many are not biodegradable, are not eco-friendly, and therefore bad for the environment.
A concerning number of disposable masks end up on roads, sidewalks, park trails, and other public places, not only littering the landscape.
They can lead to severe problems for wildlife. Regardless of where disposable masks finally come to rest, the number of masks thrown away and the materials of which they're composed are creating an environmental catastrophe.
Mask waste is alarmingly high. Research suggests that US citizens alone may generate up to 1070 million within a short period. The same report indicates that UK citizens will be responsible for up to 212.5 million in mask waste and India a whopping 4640 in mask waste.
Masks are frequently composed of plastic materials, like polypropylene and polyurethane. Over time, the plastics used to make masks break apart into microplastics. Once they enter the environment, those microparticles can infiltrate food and water sources where they’re consumed by animal life and humans alike.
Disposed masks can take hundreds of years to fully decompose, making mask-derived microplastic a concern for future generations, and we won’t have to wait that long to see the dire effects that disposable masks will have.
As environmental experts have continued to point out over the last year, the negative impacts of masks are already here.
Experts and novices alike continue to capture photos and collect stories of innocent animals fighting their cruel war against masks—macaques chewing on masks, gulls entangled in mask straps, a penguin found dead after swallowing a mask, and a wash up pufferfish that suffered the same sad fate.
Another concern is the disposal of masks with supposed nano-particle features. These too can also be unhealthy for the environment. Based on the materials, when broken down, they can have toxic effects, pollute waterways or destroy necessary “good” bacteria.
It’s easy to see that mask waste, even after just one year of mass use, promises to become an environmental crisis with consequences that will plague the earth for years to come.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t meaningful ways to decrease the impact of disposable masks on our environment and the creatures that call it home.
Efforts to curb mask waste come in many shapes and sizes. In some communities, environmentally concerned organizations are releasing PSA and other campaigns aimed at educating the public.
In the end, the onus of this resolution depends on each of us to make better choices about how we protect the environment while we protect each other.
One of the simplest ways to do this is by purchasing a reusable mask that completely removes disposable masks from the equation. Retailers from casual to designer around the globe have created their own line of reusable masks, giving consumers plenty of options. That said, not all masks are created equal.
You can choose from a wide array of eco-friendly, reusable Silver masks. These will last a lifetime, making them an economical choice. TRU47 offers several multi-layered masks fortified with 99.99% pure ionically plated silver and/or styles with copper to provide even more layers of protection.
Unlike regular cloth masks, TRU47 masks don’t require daily washing, helping you cut back on time spent and water used.
Regardless of what mask you choose, one thing is certain: we must prevent the environmental crisis that could follow should we fail to take control of the disposable mask issue—properly disposing of disposable masks and switching to reusable masks when possible are two of the best ways you can do your part.
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