After the breakout of COVID-19, the consumption of face masks and face shields has increased rapidly. If we consider continents, the mask consumptions can reach billions in one day. We sometimes miss out on the crucial details like the wastes we generate. While fighting a more significant threat, we can overlook sustainable acts about our masks and medical waste generation.
It is easy to wear a mask and throw it away immediately. However, do we consider the afterlife of that mask? A study stated that 3.4 billion masks and face shields are thrown out every day. These numbers may be shocking to hear. Keep reading to discover how we can stay healthy and safe while being sustainable at the same time.
The increase in health care products is a fact in our daily lives. Especially after COVID, our consumption of PPE (personal protective equipment) has been the center of many industries. They are produced, transported, used, and thrown out. The real question is, what happens to medical waste after we use them.
We can not recycle used medical products. Face masks, gloves, and most medical products are supposed to be used once. After that, they are expected to be thrown away. This does not mean that these materials should go to landfills without going through any process.
Also, we should be cautious because masks and other medical products are mostly made from different plastic materials. These will toxicate our world and endanger countless species. Significantly the world’s ocean pollution has increased after COVID-19. We are not careful enough with our medical waste. According to a study, one face mask can release 173,000 microfibers to our oceans and seas.
Check out our ebook if you are interested in how all kinds of medical waste are treated, sorted, and transported.
PPE (personal protective equipment) is a term COVID-19 introduced to us. Face masks, gloves, shields, and protectors are all personal protective equipment. Disposal of PPE can be different from other materials. As we mentioned before, face masks can not be recycled. So how are they treated?
Professional firms handle the collection, transportation, and treatments for medical wastes. They are usually considered hazardous materials, and they need to be handled carefully. Usually, three processes, incineration, thermal treatment, and chemical treatment, are used in the disposition process. There are software solutions to support the operation of medical waste management. You can check the details here.
Of course, for hygiene concerns, we can’t reuse medical masks. After they are used, we should throw them in medical waste containers, or if you are out of reach of these containers, the best option is to put the mask in some bag and throw it out afterward. It is risky to throw our masks in a regular garbage container or recycling bin because it may toxicate the current recyclable materials and endanger potential materials.
For someone looking for a more sustainable solution for face masks, there is always the option of cloth masks. We can reuse them for a long time. Of course, like everything else, they have a lifespan as well. They should be washed regularly. There is a risky side of these, too. If they are not from quality material, they can be useless against viruses and diseases. If you plan to purchase a cloth mask, do not forget to check the material and size because they need to fit your face nicely.
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