How to Safely Dispose of Single-Use Face Masks

Face Mask
Image: Getty

Imagine a bird tangled up in your face mask, unable to free itself. Stuck, for who knows how long, until a human hopefully shows up to its rescue. Stay with that thought for a few seconds and then read on to see how you can rectify any unintentional mistakes you’ve made while disposing of your mask.

Masks are mandatory in Victoria. Elsewhere, and in New South Wales in particular, they’re heavily advised especially if social distancing can’t be maintained in certain places such as public transport.

Here is to hoping that most of you by now are donning reusable face masks as you go about your everyday life amid the pandemic. After all, we don’t want a repeat of the plastic bottle crisis that has impacted both Australia and the rest of the world. Many of the bottles that have ended up in landfill can take up to 1,000 years to break down. They’ve also killed animals, including marine life, who mistake them for food.

You’ve only to watch David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II to see what our actions are doing — it’s truly heartbreaking stuff.

The message of this article is on the same beat.

What’s the best way to dispose of face masks?

We’re constantly talking about wearing face masks to protect ourselves from COVID-19 but the one conversation that hasn’t picked up enough is how to safely dispose of single-use masks and why you should try to avoid using them altogether (if that option is available to you).

In March, an article from Reuters explained how Hong Kong’s face masks had started to pile up on beaches and nature trails. In June, The Guardian reported that French non-profit Opération Mer Propre, were raising the alarm after divers found a large amount of ‘coronavirus waste’ such as gloves, masks and hand sanitiser ‘beneath the waves of the Mediterranean, mixed in with the usual litter of disposable cups and aluminium cans’.

As with all things, change unfortunately only comes when examples pile up and it’s impossible to avoid the chaos we’re leaving behind. Perhaps this time around we can be quicker to take action.

Step 1

First, to avoid any wildlife getting hurt with the way you dispose of your single-use mask, avoid that innate desire for convenience. As shown in the short Instagram video below, snip off the strap when you bin your mask. This will ensure no wildlife gets tangled in it.

 

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A lot of us are using disposable face masks right now and that’s great but what do you do with it afterwards? Make sure you cut the straps when you dispose your masks. It’s heartbreaking to see birds/animals tangled in them ???? 〰️ Please share this post on stories and let’s spread the word so less animals are injured from these disposable masks. Use reusable face masks if possible! ❤️ <<REPOSTING/SHARING our work>> 1. CAPTION MENTION: “Illustrated Animation created by @swon.studios” 2. TAG US in the post 3. ????????Pls DO NOT crop our social name out or recolour/manipulate the piece! We would really appreciate it!❤️ 〰️ ????????: @dailymail @l_o_o_p 〰️ #wearamaskplease #wearamasksavelives #savealife #cutthestraps #covidmask #facemask #dailyreminders #illustration #multimediaart #illustration #animation2d #illustrationlovers #skyclub #blueskies #covidkindness #begoodtotheearth #helptheplanet #helptheanimals #womenwhoillustrate #womenofillustration

A post shared by Sara & Dan (@swon.studios) on

Step 2

You should place any used face mask in a closed bin, ideally one that does not need to be touched so you can avoid the risk of spreading the infection.

Step 3

If a closed bin is unavailable, you’ll need to place the face mask in another bag and then throw it inside. Whenever you dispose of your mask, it should be double bagged — two bin liners or a small bag holding the mask and placed inside a bin — so that the person handling the garbage isn’t exposed.


If this article has convinced you to start using reusable face masks, you can either make your own protective gear at home or you can buy them online from places that are also helping people in need.

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