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disposable masks and other PPE are damaging the environment

How to discard of your disposable face masks and gloves

The streets are slowly being littered with disposable masks and disposable gloves, which can’t be good for the planet. Let’s learn how to dispose of PPE the correct way!
Throughout most of the world, people are choosing to protect themselves from the coronavirus by using PPE such as disposable gloves and disposable masks while outside their homes. Unfortunately, this has led to a mass increase in these types of PPE being incorrectly thrown away. It’s been recorded that a massive 200 billion face masks and gloves are going into the environment each month. The issue many of us are currently facing is what to do with our used face masks and gloves; do we recycle them or throw them in the general waste, and what’s the big deal if we don’t?

Don’t litter

Littering has always been and will always be bad, so don’t start now! More and more disposable masks, gloves and other PPE are being thrown on car park floors and left in shopping trolleys after supermarket outings. Your disposable gloves and masks could have the coronavirus on them, which means whoever picks up after you could catch the virus! Think of the cleaners that will have to clean up after you – would you want to infect them with the virus? Simply find a general waste bin and dispose of your used gloves and masks within it safely.

Don’t recycle your disposable masks or gloves

You might think all these disposable masks and gloves going into general waste is harming the environment and that it would be better to recycle them. Unfortunately, most disposable PPE isn’t made to be recycled and so if you do put it in the recycling bin, it’s just going to be picked out once at the recycling plant. Again, your gloves and masks could have COVID-19 on them and could easily be transmitted to the workers who sort the recycling goods. You could try thinking like this – what happens to PPE in hospitals? They discard of their PPE in a completely separate bin than both general waste and recycling to be extra safe, where they go straight into a separate landfill or are even incinerated. If hospitals are being so cautious about their gloves and masks, why can’t we?

What happens to your PPE?

disposable masks and disposable gloves are being found in the sea If discarded correctly, your disposable masks and gloves will go straight into a landfill or could possibly be incinerated. Some disposable gloves such as nitrile gloves, are biodegradable and so will decompose over time in a landfill. The same can be said for your disposable masks, however, the filters inside the masks can take a long time to biodegrade. Now, what happens to your PPE when you don’t discard of it correctly, you ask? When disposable gloves and masks are improperly discarded they could end up stuck in bushes, trees, sewers and could even end up in the ocean. The synthetic material in disposable gloves is toxic for wildlife and could easily be digested by birds and other animals. The disposable masks have been known to wrap around small animals and the thermoplastic filter inside can also poison the wildlife, too.

What can you do?

To help the environment and stay safe during the coronavirus outbreak, always dispose of your PPE in the general waste. When taking your gloves off be sure to pull your first glove off by the outside of the wrist area, then hook your ungloved finger inside the opening of the other glove to safely pull the remaining glove off without contaminating your hands. Then pop your disposable gloves in the bin and wash your hands thoroughly! If possible, use reusable masks when it’s appropriate. If you can’t wear a reusable mask for any reason, make sure to remove the mask by tugging on the ear loops and then put it straight into the bin. If you can, try to cut the ear loops so that if your mask does end up catching the attention of any wildlife nothing could get caught in the straps. Again, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands!

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