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Mask Pollution: What is it & How to Reduce it

Wong Shu Lee  


  October 30, 2020


Earlier in April, reports and studies have shown that the world cut its daily carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent as a result of shutdowns enforced to stop covid-19. Such low global emission levels have not been recorded since 2006. However, before we are able to celebrate the low carbon emission, we humans again create another type of pollution — the Mask Pollution. 


According to the report, immeasurable Covid waste —dozens of gloves, masks and bottles of hand sanitiser— was found beneath the waves of the Mediterranean. What worries more is that more businesses and people around the world turn to single-use plastics to combat the coronavirus. Just like the pandemic itself, how to properly throw off these substances has also become a global issue. 


In Malaysia face coverings are now mandatory for going out in public. Of course, this rule is designed to protect us from the spread of the coronavirus, but one conversation we’re not having enough of is around how to safely dispose of single-use masks. Besides its environmental impacts, disposing of used masks or gloves incorrectly could risk spreading the infection they’re designed to protect against. 


For instance, if an infected person throws away his/her used mask on a shopping cart after shopping, other people, such as supermarket staff who come to collect the cart will come into contact with discarded masks. In such scenarios, there is a potential for cross-contamination, and therefore possibly COVID-19 infection, from disposed masks. 

What you can do


There are two things we could do to help reduce the risks of cross-contamination through disposed masks or to reduce the Covid waste once and for all. 


1. Remove & Dispose Your Mask Properly



Make sure you wrap your used masks in tissue paper or a plastic bag before discarding them and throw them into a general waste bin—not into a recycle bin. Do not throw them on the streets or leave them on the table after eating in a restaurant. 


2. Use Reusable Fabric Masks


Another way of reducing waste is to use a reusable fabric mask that provides high filtration efficiency. For safety purposes, please purchase your fabric mask from drug stores and kindly check its bacterial filtration efficiency (BFE), particle filtration efficiency (PFE), fluid resistance and breathability before buying it. 


When using a fabric mask, you must also wash it regularly following the instructions provided by the manufacturer. While not using it—when eating or doing exercises, you must also keep it properly to avoid cross-contamination. 


Nevertheless, wearing masks is a benefit as part of a comprehensive approach in the fight against COVID-19. Please do not neglect the importance of physical distancing, hand hygiene and other public health measures. 


Stay safe, stay wise. 




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