Group urges people to don reusable masks vs COVID-19 as disposables worsening plastic pollution
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—The environment group EcoWaste Coalition has urged the public to opt for reusable face masks, instead of disposable ones, in heeding health protocol to prevent the transmission of SARS Cov2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The group made the call amid the mounting trash created by single-use masks made of non-biodegradable material and non-recyclable plastics. Many of the masks are washed ashore as trash.
Face masks are now part of daily attire as health authorities made it mandatory for people to wear these when outside their homes as a precaution against coronavirus, which spreads through droplets from infected persons.
“We are deeply upset by the unchecked consumption and disposal of soiled masks that are ending up on our streets and in the beaches and seas,” said Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition national coordinator.
“This is very concerning as these throw-away masks, which … protect us and others from the dreaded virus, pose a real threat to aquatic life,” she said, warning that marine animals might mistakenly eat, get choked or become entangled in them.
The group noted that disposable masks were not the only items found along beaches as a team from the EcoWaste Coalition also saw plastic bottles of rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizers along with mostly plastic garbage like bags, product sachets, polystyrene containers, straws and other single-use items.
“To discourage the unrestrained use and disposal of throw-away masks, we urge the public to don reusable fabric masks, which can be easily washed with detergent or soap and safely reused,” Lucero said.
“By opting for reusable or washable face masks, we avoid generating non-biodegradable and non-recyclable trash that only adds to the worsening plastic pollution crisis,” she added.
According to Lucero, the discarded masks will, over time, break down into extremely small particles and may contribute to the microplastic contamination of the food supply chain.
Lucero said limiting the use of medical masks will also ensure adequate and steady supply for health workers who need them the most.
According to the World Health Organization, medical masks (also known as surgical masks) should be worn by health workers, people who have COVID-19 symptoms and those who take care of someone suspected of having or confirmed to have COVID-19.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EcoWaste Coalition also pointed to the need to integrate in the National Plan of Action for the Prevention, Reduction, and Management of Marine Litter (NPOA-ML) concrete policies and steps to cut down on plastic waste and to stop such waste from finding its way into the oceans.
The NPOA-ML is currently being finalized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
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