As the world's population masks-up to stop the spread of Covid-19, it's important to bear in mind the environmental impact of this pandemic. While single-use face masks are crucial to help suppress the rate of transmission, they have proven harmful to wildlife when they are not disposed of correctly.
As masks have started to litter our streets and countryside, we need to all be a little more responsible when discarding our personal protective equipment (PPE). There have been recent images emerge of animals and birds getting tangled in the ear loops of face masks and whilst they don't look dangerous to us, they can be a trap for any wildlife. In response, people are calling for a change in the way we dispose of these PPE items.
Across social media, campaigns are encouraging people to cut the straps of their face masks, before they are disposed of, to ensure that lesser or no animals become harmed. The RSPCA has also urged people to ‘snip the straps’ on disposal face masks after animals have been found tangled in the discarded PPE items. According to the animal welfare charity, dumped face masks have become a new hazard for wildlife since the pandemic began.
“Our RSPCA officers have had to rescue animals from getting tangled in face masks and we expect that this may go up as time goes on, so the best thing to do is to simply cut the elastic ear straps in half before throwing it away,” said an RSPCA officer.
With this in mind, there are steps we can take to help reduce the impact of wearing a face mask:
- Use reusable/ washable face masks when you can. However, some public transports only allow single-use masks to be used! Make sure you check before starting your journey.
- When you are using a single-use mask, make sure you cut the ear straps before disposing of into a waste or litter bin. You should carry a sealable bag with you to safely store your used masks inside if there is no bin in sight.
- Don't put single-use masks in the recycling. They can be a potential biohazard to waste workers and get caught in machinery. Always check the product packaging for disposal instructions!
- And most importantly don't litter face masks!
At Trusted PPE we are aware of the rising environmental issues surrounding the misuse and disposal of gloves, face masks and other PPE items. To combat this, we've produced these key actions we can all take to help reduce the environmental impact of PPE in our local areas.
For further information or advice regarding any of our products, please email a member of our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our FAQ page.