How To Sustainably Reuse And Dispose Of Masks


Disposable masks are generating tons of waste right now! Here are some ways you can reduce this waste and use masks sustainably!


Today, facemasks are being worn more now than ever — they’re critical to protecting yourself and others from the spread of COVID-19. However, with increased mask use, of course, comes more waste. It's estimated that around 75% of disposable masks (in addition to other pandemic-related waste), will end up in landfills, or floating in the seas, harming marine and other life and degrading into harmful micro-plastics. This will have an enormous financial cost too, due to damage to tourism and fisheries; the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates around $40 billion in worldwide losses.

It is critical for us to responsibly and properly reuse and dispose of masks to avoid as much waste as possible. So whether you’re wearing surgical masks or cloth ones, here are some ways you can help prevent waste:

  • Wear reusable cloth masks. Using reusable masks will not only limit waste but also save you money in the long run. It’s essential, however, that you wash them every time you wear them to maintain effectiveness. It might be useful to purchase multiple cloth masks so you can wear one while washing another. 

  • If you don’t have access to cloth masks, reuse surgical masks. Despite being designed as disposable, there are ways these masks can be safely reused. After use, keep it in a Ziploc bag with some silica gel to absorb moisture and keep the mask dry. You could also use a paper bag to store the mask. Surgical masks can be used for up to 3 days if kept intact and not torn. Please note that cloth masks are still a better and more reliable option.

  • Dispose of masks properly. As mentioned before, improper disposing of masks can have disastrous effects on the environment. We must pay attention to how we dispose of our masks. To dispose of surgical masks, cut off the ear loops to separate them from the mask. Then, fold it inwards so that the inside of the mask is not exposed. Then roll it up, put it in a tissue paper or plastic bag, and throw it away in a closed-lid bin.


Photo from Unsplash.

Posted by Lena Wu on Sep 9, 2020 9:06 AM America/Chicago

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