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Mask Discard Issues Caused by COVID-19

by Audrey Hazel

In order to fight against COVID-19, many people in our lives use surgical masks to protect themselves. But some people throw away protective equipment at will, which adds a lot of marine pollution and needs human attention.

(Photo via Pixabay.com)

Taipei, Taiwan (Merxwire) – Recently, the environmental organization discovered many Discard Masks during the cleaning operation in the Mediterranean Sea. French non-profit, Opération Mer Propre (Operation Clean Sea) said protective gear such as masks and gloves, which were rare before, are appearing in large numbers in the ocean.

Discard Masks Everywhere

When people throw away masks and gloves at will, the garbage may enter the ocean, and Opération Mer Propre considers it a new type of pollution. Due to the large number of masks used, in the near future, the number of discarded masks on the Mediterranean Sea will be greater than the number of jellyfish.

Once a mask containing plastic materials such as polypropylene flows into the ocean, it will take 450 years to be degraded, which will seriously damage the ecological environment of the ocean.

Poisonous Gas from Burning

The number of masks people use is huge and amazing, so are we currently capable of recycling discard masks? Simply put, the mask is made of non-woven fabric, if it contains too much Chlorine, such as Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), then it is not easy to recycle. If there is too much PVC, it may produce toxic Dioxin after burning, but most of the current masks contain Polypropylene (PP), or Polyethylene (PE). These substances will not produce a large amount of Dioxin after burning.

The Value of Recycling

Why no one recycles masks? Can masks generate value after recycling? Greenpeace said “the value of mask recycling is very low,” because non-woven fabrics are low-grade plastics. If it is recycled and made into plastic, the quality is very poor. If you want to recycle masks, you must consider the price of the product in the market, and the processing cost of recycling masks is expensive. For recycling companies, there is no profit or motivation to recycle.

How to Reduce the Pollution of Masks

At present, people are working hard to study “methods to extend the use times and lifespan of masks.” For example, the University of Nebraska in the United States is carrying out ultraviolet testing to try to extend the lifespan of surgical masks, hoping to reduce waste. In Antibes, France, a member of parliament also suggested that “people who randomly discard masks and gloves in public places should be fined 300 euros.

The most correct way is to put these protective equipment in a special recycling container and give it to a professional for disposal. Hope everyone can protect the earth while protecting themselves, so as not to cause harm to the earth and cause pollution.

Reference materials:

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