Disposable does not mean biodegradable, and disposable does not mean dispose of in nature.
Masks, also known as PPE, short for personal protective equipment have become an essential in our daily lives thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, we can stay safe without adding to the landfills or without littering in nature. Unfortunately, mask littering has become a permanent problem in West Augustine, and we need your help. Please ask your friends, family and neighbors to purchase or make reusable masks, they are just as safe, and they do not add to the landfills. Not only are these reusable masks more environmentally friendly, they are also budget friendly. You can even purchase masks that make a statement, such as black lives matter masks, masks with sparkles, different patterns etc.
According to Science magazine, the "improper disposal of just 1% of face masks translates to more than 10 million items, weighing 30,000 to 40,000 kg" accounting for all masks globally recorded. Not only that but improper disposing of PPE is now a global health crisis.
Disposable masks contain microplastic fibers, which over time break apart from each other and are deposited into the ground, rivers, then oceans. They are made of polymeric materials, which have "been identified as a significant source of plastics and plastic particle pollution in the environment (Schnurr et al., 2018 )". PPE is also not recyclable. Yes, masks and gloves are not recyclable.
According to Aditi Sangal from CNN, "Even if it is plastic or rubber, it is contaminated. It is regular trash and not recyclable." Therefore, it is important to dispose of masks and gloves, which are both consider PPE and make sure that these are disposed of properly in order to reduce the chance of them being misplaced.
Unfortunately, even reusable masks have become a problem in our community, and we especially see a lot of mask littering around our local schools. It is truly sad. The children receive these masks free from the school, when they show up at school without protection. So, if you see a child throw a mask away in nature, please encourage them to take it home or to bring it back to school to get it washed instead. If your children bring home one of the free masks from school, please wash them, and make sure it is returned to your child's backpack.
It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a community to keep our streets and nature clean. We are counting on you West Augustine neighbors, together we can make our community a greener, cleaner place to live. Let's show some West Augustine pride, we live in a beautiful neighborhood, and if we take care of it, we can all enjoy the beauty of nature.
~ R.R., 12th grade, SAHS
Fadare, Oluniyi O, and Elvis D Okoffo. “Covid-19 Face Masks: A Potential Source of Microplastic Fibers in the Environment.” The Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier B.V., 1 Oct. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7297173/#:~:text=Disposable%20face%20masks%20(single%20use,Potluri%20and%20Needham%2C%202005).
Written by Charlotte Edmond, Senior Writer. “How Face Masks, Gloves and Other Coronavirus Waste Is Polluting Our Ocean.” World Economic Forum, www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/ppe-masks-gloves-coronavirus-ocean-pollution/.
Adyel, Tanveer M. “Accumulation of Plastic Waste during COVID-19.” Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 11 Sept. 2020, science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6509/1314.
Sangal, Aditi. “Discarded Masks and Gloves Are Becoming a Health Hazard as People Dump Them on Streets.” CNN, Cable News Network, 21 Apr. 2020, www.cnn.com/2020/04/21/us/coronavirus-ppe-masks-gloves-environment-hazard-trnd/index.html.