MANILA, Philippines — A non-profit environmental group has partnered with women in producing 9,500 fabric face masks to normalize the usage of reusable masks rather than plastic-based face masks.
To combat the plastic pollution crisis made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, EcoWaste Coalition initiated the production of reusable face masks which will be donated to informal waste recyclers and their families.
“We have ventured into this reusable fabric face mask project to underline environmental responsibility amid the novel coronavirus public health emergency, which has triggered increased production, use, and disposal of single-use plastic-based face masks that are discarded after use,” EcoWast Coalition Zero Waste Campaigner Jove Benosa said in a statement on Tuesday.
“While wearing a face mask has become part of the new COVID-19 normal, it is not necessary for everyone to don a single-use medical face mask,” Benosa added.
He further lamented that “the uncontrolled marketing of throw-away masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) has resulted in these disposables littering streets and ending up in waterways and seas.”
EcoWaste said the reusable fabric face masks project was made possible by a grant from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, the largest and oldest environmental organization in Sweden and EcoWaste Coalition’s partner since 2009.
According to the World Health Organization, “non-medical, fabric masks are advised for use by the general public when physical distancing cannot be maintained, as part of a comprehensive ‘Do it all!’ approach, including improving ventilation; cleaning hands; covering sneezes and coughs, and more.”
Meanwhile, medical masks are recommended for all health workers in clinical settings, for persons who are feeling unwell, and for people caring for suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“Efforts are very much needed to prevent and control COVID-19 plastic waste and to ensure that such waste does not cause further harm to the oceans,” said Benosa.
The EcoWaste Coalition is working with local government units in getting necessary ordinances adopted to address the problem with improper disposal of used PPE. GMA, Cavite; Lapu-Lapu City; and Manila City have so far enacted their respective ordinances.
“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. Over time, discarded masks in the oceans will break down into extremely small particles and may contribute to the microplastic contamination of the food supply chain,” the group said. Zac Sarao, trainee