discarded mask in ocean

As the pandemic continues its spread across the globe, citizens in every corner of the planet are relying on masks as a safety precaution. While the CDC recommends their use, it seems many people aren’t disposing of single-use masks properly. As a result, masks are washing up on beaches by the hundreds.

Millions of masks are used every day

Since the pandemic appeared in early 2020, production of disposable masks has increased dramatically. Estimates suggest 129 billion face masks are used every single day, according to the Environment, Science and Technology journal. If even a fraction of those masks aren’t disposed of properly, they can easily make their way into waterways.

Masks are washing up on beaches all over the country, from the shores of the French Cote d’Azur to the beaches of Hong Kong. Conservationists say if something isn’t done soon, “There will be more masks than jellyfish in the ocean.”

Masks are made of polypropylene, which is a type of plastic. If a mask made of this material gets into the ocean, it will take 450 years for it to break down. During that time, the mask will slowly fall apart, leaving small bits or plastic known as microplastic, floating in the water. Marine life eat these tiny shards of plastic, which can damage their organs and compromise their immune and reproductive system.

How to properly dispose of masks

If you choose to wear a disposable mask, the proper way to dispose of it is in the garbage. Single-use masks aren’t recyclable. Although they may look like they’re made of paper, they’re not. No recycling company will accept masks.

Masks should go in your garbage can, preferably your garbage at home as opposed to tossing them in a bin in a parking lot. Why? Garbage can fly out of bins that are outside, especially if it doesn’t have a lid. To make sure the mask will stay in the garbage, put it in your garbage at home.

The best masks for the planet

There are three different kinds of masks that people use right now: Cloth, disposable, and N-95 masks. Both the disposable masks and N-95 masks contain plastic, so they aren’t ideal for the planet. The best pick environmentally is a cloth mask.

By purchasing several cloth masks and washing and reusing them, you reduce plastic waste and the chances of it ending up in the ocean.

Plastic pollution pre-COVID

Masks are the latest plastic item causing problems in ocean. Long before the pandemic, activist were sounding the alarm on plastic pollution and its harmful effects.

There are more single-use plastic solutions today than ever before. Plastic bags, bottles of water, household cleaners, soaps, food packaging – you name it – it all contains plastic.

There is a way to curb plastic consumption. By turning to refill technology, consumers can refill bottles of their favorite products and stop repeatedly buying bottles. By doing so, consumers would rely less on plastic and create less waste. The technology exists. If you’re ready to take action and use refill technology, sign the petition today