Face Mask Negative Impact on the Enviroment (Revised)

Extensive use of protective personal equipment (PPE) used in limiting the spread of COVID-19 has generated million tons of plastic waste to the environment in a short span of time. Ocean Asia predicts that 1.56 billion face masks have entered the oceans. These facemask will require hundreds of years to break down and will continue to suffocate and entangle marine species. The ingestion of microplastics in the ocean will endanger marine wildlife and ecosystems through movement of plastic along with its toxins through the food chain.

 Face masks found in the ocean Source: Oceans Asia

In April 2021, PhD candidate Kajana Selvarnjan from the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka along with his colleagues, released a study investigating the environmental impact caused by face masks, and sustainable solutions to reduce waste. Face masks are made from plastic derivatives in the form of polymer fabrics composed of polypropylene or polycarbonate. Although these materials have been efficient in curbing the spread of COVID-19, they pose a significant threat to the environment when disposed inappropriately.

Polypropylene in Masks Source: Ennis fabrics

Face mask pollution continues to increase due to many individuals not following appropriate disposal methods. The study highlights that people should not be given all the blame since appropriate waste collecting methods have not been specified in many countries.

Woven Technology comparison a) Surgical masks ( b) Plant Fiber Source  Kajanan et al., 2021

In order to reduce the micro-plastic pollution in the ocean, the study proposes the use of biodegradable masks. The researchers found that organic and biodegradable materials offer similar protection to plastic face masks.

Biodegradable polymers provide the same light weight and high tensile strength as plastic masks but offer the benefit of being easily degradable and recyclable. Replacing the polypropylene polymer with a biodegradable polymer made from natural plant fibers will aid in reducing face masks contribution to the global plastic crisis.


One comment

  1. Hi Victor,

    Your post was written really well! It was super informative and had a good use of images. Something you might consider is a call to action at the end just for readers to apply to themselves a bit more. Otherwise, really good post!

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