Since the pandemic started, the need for disposable face masks has exponentially increased. Every month, 129 billion masks are thrown away, ending up scattered across the world. How has the upsurge in mask production affected our environment? And what’s the proper way to throw out a mask?
A lifespan of 450 years
As the need for masks grew, plastic pollution – an environmental issue that’s lasted since the 1960s – has quickly risen. Disposable masks consist of polypropylene and are not biodegradable. Their lifespan is also 450 years. Because of this, masks have been discovered in the ocean and along coastlines, further damaging the four ocean basins.
The danger of mask straps
Also, disposable mask straps can become tangled in seabirds‘ and other marine animals’ feet. Consequently, they are unable to move and perform daily activities, possibly leading to death. And once disposable masks are in the ocean, ocean animals can mistake them for food, choking, suffocating or dealing with fatal bowel obstructions from them.
Cut the straps
One way to prevent wildlife from becoming entangled in masks is by cutting the masks’ ear straps. On Aug. 20, 2020, @swon.studios posted original illustrations emphasizing the importance of cutting straps. The post went viral and is currently approaching 400,000 likes.
Cloth face masks
Do you have other tips for being more eco-friendly during the pandemic? Let us know in the comments below.