Disposable masks have detrimental effects on the environment

Masks are essential during the pandemic.  They protect us from contracting COVID-19 and allow us to safely navigate this new world.  Many people use disposable masks that they can throw away after use.  This is convenient because they do not have to worry about washing and drying them.  Although single-use masks are easy to use, they are extremely harmful to the environment.

The outbreak of the pandemic triggered an estimated use of 129 billion single-use face masks every month according to NPR.  Since March 2020, over one and a half trillion disposable masks have been used.  If all the masks that have been manufactured were sewn together, they would cover all of Switzerland.  

The high quantity of masks being used has a negative impact on the environment.  As a result of COVID-19 precautions and the defunding of recycling systems all over the world, these masks have been found in oceans.  It is due to the pandemic that 30% more waste has been found in oceans, as reported by NPR.

“Plastic pollution was already one of the greatest threats to our planet before the coronavirus outbreak.  The sudden boom in the daily use of certain products to keep people safe and stop the disease is making things much worse,” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s Director of International Trade.

As a result of the increased amount of pandemic-related plastic and disposable masks that have reached seas and oceans, wildlife has been affected.  Pictures have surfaced on the internet of animals with parts of their bodies tied up or killed because of encountering these masks.

“I have seen pictures all over the internet of sad animals being hurt and even killed at the hands of single-use masks.  This has made me rethink what type of masks that I should be wearing.  More recently, I have tried to wear reusable masks that I can wash and use multiple times,”  said sophomore Montana Moon.

Wearing single-use masks may damage the environment, but their convenience can be tempting.  There are methods to make these masks more eco-friendly.  According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), you should cut the ear loops of the masks before discarding them.  This prevents animals from getting caught in them.  Additionally, if your local community offers recycling programs, it is best to put your used mask into the recycling bin.

“After hearing about the negative impact that my masks are causing to the environment, I have committed to cutting the ear loops of my disposable masks and wearing reusable masks when possible,” said sophomore Gaby Sorin.

 If these are steps you are not willing to take, invest in a reusable mask.  Purchasing one will help the environment in the long run.