“With a lifespan of 450 years, disposable masks are an ecological timebomb.”
The use of disposable kit to tackle the pandemic is driving a surge in ocean pollution, threatening marine life and creating vast new amounts of unrecyclable waste. For the sake of the planet, and ourselves, we need to switch to reusable masks.
Michael Conway, Founder, Brilliant Masks
In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s not surprising that other big issues are slipping down the priority list. Few would argue that it is the central concern of 2020, and one that needs to be overcome as swiftly as possible.
But there’s a real danger that the focus on the pandemic is taking attention from another serious global issue: the climate crisis. And worse, that the actions we’re taking to protect ourselves from Covid-19 are actually having a negative impact on the environment.
Disposable masks are littering the country and ending up in the ocean
Image courtesy theconversation.com
A typical walk along a town or country road highlights the root of the problem; disposable masks are a new, very common kind of litter. And environmental groups are raising the alarm as items of Covid waste have started washing up in seas and oceans all over the world. Indeed, according to the non-profit organisation Opération Mer Propre, “We’ll soon run the risk of having more masks than jellyfish in the Mediterranean.”
It’s easy to see how; the number of masks being used and thrown away is staggering. This week, research by waste company TradeWaste.co.uk reported that the UK public are throwing away 53 million disposable masks every single day. And according to a survey by the UCL Plastic Waste Hub, if every person in the UK used a single-use face mask a day for a year, it would create an additional 66,000 tonnes of contaminated waste, and 57,000 tonnes of plastic packaging, creating 10 times more climate-change impact than reusable masks.
The damage masks can do to the environment, wildlife and ourselves
The impact of this Covid-19 waste on the environment is dramatic. If you want the whole story, you can read this report from the US-based National Center for Biotechnology Information, which explores how disposable masks are adding to the already vast amount of plastic and plastic particle waste. But in brief, here are four reasons why we should be worried:
Disposable masks cannot be recycled, due to containing polypropylene.
Those that end up as landfill are likely to take up to 450 years to decompose, and to fragment or break down into microplastics during this time.
Others find their way into the sea, where birds, fish and other marine wildlife may become entangled with them, or mistake them for food and swallow them, and die as a result.
All of the above factors increase the risk of plastic particles polluting the environment and entering the food chain.
Or, as the French politician Eric Pauget puts it: “These masks are an ecological timebomb given their lasting environmental consequences for our planet.”
Brilliant Masks are effective, ethical and better for the environment
So, what’s the alternative? It’s simple: switch to reusable masks. Even better, switch to Brilliant Masks, environmentally friendly face coverings which can be used time and time again.
Our face coverings were designed with doctors at Alder Hey Hospital, in line with their specific requirements, to keep patients and their visitors safe. They are washable at 30⁰, made from high-grade Supima cotton and have been reported to be ‘best in class’ compared to other resuable masks tested at the same time.
And as well as being better for the planet due to their reusability, Brilliant Masks are produced in the UK, via a sustainable, transparent supply chain. From the cotton field to the packing and posting hub, we can trace every step of their journey, ensuring that they are as ethical as they are effective.
Let’s not make the planet pay the price for fighting Covid-19
So, while it’s right that we’re being encouraged to protect ourselves and each other with face masks, it shouldn’t have to be at the expense of the environment. It’s up to all of us to do our bit, and using a reusable mask is a great place to start.