#FactFriday: Face masks are a threat to aquatic life

face masks - climateaction

#FactFriday: Face masks are a threat to aquatic life

Hello readers. Welcome to #FactFriday on CleanbuildVoices!

The pandemic has also seen increased production of disposable face masks, especially single-use ones, which have contributed to a surge in ocean pollution, adding to the existing plastic waste crisis.

The problem is that most face masks contain plastics or other by-products of plastic materials and most plastic particles are photo-oxidized when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. So, they become brittle, fragment into microplastics and nano-plastics.

According to a study, a single face mask can release as many as 173,000 microfibers per day into the seas, having a direct effect on aquatic life through direct ingestion.

In addition to their threat to aquatic life and other living species, disposable masks could also be releasing dangerous pollutants, including heavy metals and toxic dyes.

The amount of plastic waste accumulating in the oceans is forecast to triple in the next 20 years if we don’t act fast. Citizens need clear information on the disposal because face masks are not recyclable in most municipal systems and should not be added to any household recycling bin.

Governments and international organizations can design guidelines to manage face mask waste, especially for recycling – separation, storage, and collection.

Also, there should be a sustainable approach to curbing the face mask litter challenge by promoting the use of natural plant fibers in their production to obtain a biodegradable and compostable product.

Bottom line

You have a role to play in reducing facemask litter. How? By doing the following:

  • Buying a reusable face mask or a face mask made of natural fiber (wear washable cloth masks when possible)
  • Disposing of your face mask properly ( into a plastic bag, seal it, and put it out for the trash)

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