Viken Tape

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Face Mask Dilemma: The looming danger to the environment and its excessive use in health safety

A lot changed in the World after Covid 2019 be it the way we perceive safety, health or life. Masks became an integral part of our lives. And before we could even strategise fighting off one problem, the problem of environmental pollution by face masks became aggravated. We simply cannot deny the side effects on the environment that disposable face masks pose. However, we cannot even overlook the fact that they are quintessential health safety equipment that cannot be replaced with cloth masks. Hence, it’s upon us to find better ways to dispose of these disposable face masks in a responsible manner such that it minimises the impact on the environment. 

A non-profit marine conservation organisation OceansAsia estimates that nearly 1.5 billion face masks entered our oceans in 2020. Now, disposable face masks are made of polypropylene and hence its complete disposal would take more or less 450 years. These figures are triggering and we cannot load our environment with more damage than we have already created. Hence, we need better ways to take care of these health commodities else our oceans would see an unimaginable fate. 

Recycling face masks is difficult because of the varying components in them. Be it the plastic or metal nose wire, elastics and the face mask sheet. Recycling of face masks would require the segregation of each of these components to be further recycled at different facilities. Now, even this is difficult as the common man has little to no idea of how to dispose of the face mask, let alone leave the possibility to recycle them. 

Let us show you the step by step procedure of disposing of the regular surgery mask.

  • Remove the mask without touching the covering part. 
  • Using elastics, remove the face mask and fold it inwards. This is important to prevent germs from spreading. 
  • Use the elastic to wrap the mask and put it in a yellow bag. The waste in these yellow bags is disposed of or incinerated. However, this is a disposal way in a hospital. 
  • A common man should follow the same procedure except that they can dispose of their face masks in closed bins so that the masks don’t run off or spread infections. 

Now, the way we mentioned is a logical and commonly practised way of disposing of the face mask. However, if the common man starts practising precautions and extra measures while disposing of the face mask, we can reduce the environmental impact on the environment. 

Now, there are varying ways in which disposable face masks can be recycled into usable long term items. For instance, after sterilising and recycling the polypropylene we can use it to make bricks, structures or daily usable items like chairs. This way, plastic would be within the environment but won’t be loaded on landfills. This is just one of the many ways of revamping plastic products. However, there is an urgent need for bright minds to think of innovative ways to recycle and upkeep this plastic. 

We can also ensure that the components within face masks like nose wires and elastics are eco friendly. At Viken Tape, we manufacture, sell and export premium quality Elastic with the number 1 rating of OEKO-TEX® Standards. It simply means that the elastic is human friendly and can be further used without harming the environment much. Similarly, we manufacture our nose wire using food-grade plastic. You see, we cannot altogether eliminate plastic from our everyday life and most importantly medical supplies. This is where we make use of better variants that would pose less harm to the environment. And also could aid in recycling processes. 

Rounding back to the topic, we cannot eliminate the presence of single-use disposable face masks for the simple reason of health safety. However, what we can do is be more informed and creative in our process of disposable masks. The general public can continue to use cloth masks unless there is a possible danger of infection. Hence, opting cloth mask in such cases is a wise way of reducing a bit of load from our environment. 

Conclusively, we have to find a middle ground wherein the use of disposable face masks aren’t compromised and neither do we continue to add load over our landfills and oceans. Research needs to be encouraged within this area to ensure proper and better ways of disposal of face masks. We don’t want the very face masks that protect us, pose a threat to our environment.

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