by Christine Muller
How many face masks does humanity use? 129 billion face masks every month, 3 million every minute! That is mind boggling. The huge toll on the environment is just starting to get recognized. The masks end up in landfills, rivers and oceans where they cause numerous problems. Wildlife gets caught in them or eats them and then starves to death. Eventually the plastic breaks down and enters the food chain with multiple mostly unknown dangers to human and ecosystem health.
While the waste is already a visible problem everywhere, the harmful impacts of their production are more hidden. The manufacturing of disposable masks uses many natural resources and causes pollution including greenhouse gases that are warming our planet, which causes the climate to become increasingly hostile to human life. Moreover, many face masks are produced under abhorrent sweatshop conditions.
So, what can we do? It is very important to wear face masks wherever there is a danger of spreading Covid. However, most people who are vaccinated and not at high risk and don’t work in health care are fine wearing reusable face masks. You can wash and reuse cloth masks for a long time. This website provides information about eco-friendly reusable face masks: 13 Eco-Friendly Face Masks for Sustainable COVID Protection
Oh, and if you still have disposable face masks? Use them up, but before throwing them out, cut off the loops so that wildlife does not get caught in them.