Masks are everywhere now. Here’s how to dispose of them properly
Wearing face masks is a clear way to stop the spread of COVID-19, so now they’re everywhere.
Some are reusable cloth masks, while others are disposable and intended to be used just one time. It’s important to know how to dispose of them properly.
“While it’s especially important to keep yourselves and others healthy by masking up right now, it’s also important to keep the Earth we rely on healthy, too,” says Travis Hawks, a sustainability specialist with Advocate Aurora Health.
For starters, you should properly dispose of face masks in the garbage and don’t litter. Masks have been found on the sides of nature trails and littering neighborhoods.
“These masks ultimately end up in our waterways, can tangle or suffocate wildlife, and break down into microplastics that get ingested by wildlife and humans alike if not disposed of properly. Most single-use masks are made of polypropylene plastic, which take up to 450 years to degrade in the environment,” says Hawks.
For another, you should cut the ear loops of your disposable mask before you throw it away. That way, birds can’t get caught in the loops if they happen upon a mask in the garbage or if they end up in the environment. It’s like how you’re encouraged to snip those plastic rings that fit around six-packs of beer and soda. This is an easy thing to do and might help a bird.
For your safety and safety of others, it’s important to follow the following precautions to prevent virus transmission when disposing of your mask.
After mask removal, dispose into an appropriate waste receptacle, and perform hand hygiene using alcohol based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol or soap & water if available. If using a cloth mask, the CDC recommends regular cleaning.
While not everyone is crafty enough to make one, cloth masks can be re-used if you wash them regularly. You can watch the video below to learn more about what to look for in a cloth mask.
About the Author
Mike Riopell, health enews contributor, is a media relations coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked as a reporter and editor covering politics and government for the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Bloomington Pantagraph, among others. He enjoys bicycles, home repair, flannel shirts and being outside.