Stop COVID-19 and save the planet with re-usable masks
Whether we like having to wear them or not, using a facemask during the current pandemic is scientifically-proven to reduce transmission of COVID-19.
Early in the pandemic, many of us went straight for the most easily-accessible ones on the market – the standard blue disposable ones, that have to be thrown straight in the bin after just one day’s worth of use. Reinforcing the practice of mask-wearing in public has undoubtedly kept transmission of COVID-19 lower than it otherwise would have been.
But what’s the real impact of using facemasks on a regular basis, and what can we all do during this pandemic to be more sustainable, when using them?
Masks of all shapes and sizes
A study by Oxford University found conclusive evidence that masks are effective at reducing transmission of COVID-19. This has the effect of protecting both the wearer and those in the wearer’s vicinity.
The study concluded that masks should be considered as integral to the other measures fight against COVID-19, including social distancing and handwashing. But the masks some of us use on a daily basis could be having a significant impact on the environment.
Blue single-use facemasks are non-biodegradable, as they often contain a plastic called polypropylene. This means that after just a day’s use, they are destined for a life in a landfill site. An article published in the Environment journal in September 2020 claimed that Brits are throwing away 1.6 billion non-biodegradable facemasks into landfill each month.
More Brits embracing reusable masks
Fortunately, there are ways to find reusable masks, which are not only better for the environment – they’re actually some of the most effective types you can wear, to limit transmission of COVID-19. Companies including Plümo and Dennys provide linen masks that can be washed and reused easily.
One of the things that makes linen and cloth-based reusable masks so special is that the aforementioned study from Oxford University remarked that cloth-based ones are some of the most effective in limiting transmission of COVID-19. Those made from high-grade cotton, with multiple-layers or hybrid materials were particularly useful.
In an encouraging development, YouGov conducted a poll, finding that just 31 per cent of Brits use the single-use disposable masks. However, the survey did note that, of the 69 per cent who wore washable, reusable ones, a majority weren’t quite washing them in the correct way.
To make sure you’re following right procedure, it’s important to wash the mask as often as possible – at least once a wash after each use. You also need to wash your facemask at 60 degrees celsius or higher, as viruses are unable to survive in high temperatures.
Of course, facemasks are just part of the daily routine we need to follow to halt the spread of COVID-19. Disinfectant gels, handwashing for at least 20 seconds, as well as following social distancing are all equally important measures we can follow to keep as many people safe and healthy as possible. Reusable facemasks just help make that routine that bit greener.