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Disposable masks: the environmental cost

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Face masks are extremely important to prevent the spread of COVID-19; however, they are contributing to another global crisis: pollution.

Disposable masks are not recyclable, and if the use of these masks continues, they’re likely to add to our already overwhelmingly cluttered landfills.

This has detrimentally impacted our environment.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, stray disposable masks on the ground are becoming more and more common.

Personally, I’ve even noticed many masks on SU’s campus, and that is not okay!

We are a campus that prides itself on sustainability. There shouldn’t be any litter on our campus, especially not masks.

Masks are also making their way to our oceans.

Disposable face masks contain plastic which takes an exceptionally long time to break down, and even after doing so, will add to the microplastic pollution in the ocean.

Additionally, microplastics can cause a lot of harm to animals that ingest them.

Animals can easily find themselves tangled in masks or mistake them for food.

According to an article from The New York Post, a seagull got its legs tangled up in a disposable mask. The was particularly harmful as the bird was unable to fly or walk.

Although this incident happened in the U.K., it could easily happen here in the U.S. too.

Think about our own mascot, Sammy the Sea Gull!

We should all take a few more minutes out of our day to consider ways to prevent seagulls and other animals from dealing with the determinantal consequences of our actions.

So, what can you do?

Everyone on campus is required to wear masks in classes, buildings, and groups, and they should.

However, switching to reusable cloth face masks is the best option for students.

Although reusable face masks can be more expensive, it is only a one-time price instead of having to continue to buy disposable face masks.

Just throw them in the washing machine with your other laundry! You can even make your own masks with the help of online tutorials.

Reusable face masks should have a minimum of two layers and be made from washable, breathable fabric, according to the CDC.

You can also add a filter inside of most reusable masks so they can be even more effective.

The CDC also recommends that surgical masks (disposable masks) should only be used in work settings. Thus, the reusable face coverings are a great option for students.

However, if you do not have access to using reusable face masks or are required to use disposable masks for work, please make sure to throw your used masks into the trash where they belong.

We all have been having a difficult time during this pandemic, but we need to think a little more about how the earth is affected by it too.

We need to stay safe, but we also need to remember to keep our planet safe as well!



Staff writer

Featured image by Summer Shaper.

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