Environmental impact of disposable face masks:
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have enforced a mask mandate to help slow down the spread of the virus. While it’s important for everyone to protect themselves and each other, there has been a large increase in pandemic waste from the increasing use of single-use plastics and materials, such as disposable face masks, that have been gravely affecting our oceans and our wildlife when not disposed of properly.
Disposable masks are being used daily, causing many people to go through plenty of masks on a weekly basis. While it’s important to keep your mask clean, disposable masks are a major threat to our oceans and our wildlife when not disposed of properly. Disposable masks are not biodegradable because they are made with polypropylene, a form of plastic. When they end up in our waterways like our rivers and oceans, they break down into microplastics, releasing harmful chemicals that are hazardous to our ocean’s health.
Especially harmful to our wildlife, the elastic ear straps on our disposable masks risk killing many marine animals. Many animals get tangled up and stuck in the straps making it hard for them to be mobile. When ingested, these straps can also cause many animals to choke or to suffer from fatal digestive complications.
Although disposable masks are made to be disposable, there are many ways to be more responsible when tossing out your used mask moving forward.
Ways to be more responsible with your masks:
- Some recycling facilities might accept disposable masks, so be sure to check with your local recycling plant to see if they can accept your disposable mask waste.
- When disposing of your disposable mask in a trash bin, cut off the elastic ear straps before throwing it away so animals are less likely to get tangled up in them.