SINGLE-USE PLASTICS
University report warns of waste surge if disposable masks are worn during coronavirus pandemic
Wearing single-use medical masks to avoid transmitting Covid-19 could end up generating thousands of tonnes of plastics waste by the time the coronavirus pandemic has ended, according to a new report. The use of masks is being considered more widely as governments around the world look to ease their lockdown restrictions. But University College London’s Plastic Waste Innovation Hub (London / UK; www.plasticwastehub.org.uk) has argued that if people are going to be required to wear masks when leaving their homes they should wear reusable, rather than single-use masks, “owing to the environmental implications of wearing and disposing of single-use face masks.”

UCL said most masks that were available for sale were made from layers of plastics and were designed to be single-use. “If every person in the UK used one single-use face mask each day for a year, it would create 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastics waste, and 10 times more climate change impact than using reusable masks,” its policy briefing said. There would be a further 57,000 t of associated plastic packaging generated by the use of disposable masks, it added.

Using reusable masks that could be washed manually – and which evidence suggested performed most of the tasks of single-use masks without the associated waste stream – would result in just 2,600 t of waste, the report said. Some politicians, including London mayor Sadiq Khan, have called for the public to wear home-made masks, using material such as scarfs or handkerchiefs tied with elastic bands, so as to save supplies of personal protection equipment for those working on the frontline in hospitals and care homes.

But UCL warned that as much as masks might prevent transmission of the disease by acting as a physical barrier against mouth and nose touching when in public and be an aid for those most at risk of coming into contact with an infected person, good hand hygiene would remain a key weapon in the battle against the disease.
21.05.2020 Plasteurope.com [245109-0]
Published on 21.05.2020

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Date of print: 28.09.2020 08:57:07   (Ref: 169684780)
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