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Millions of disposable masks are washing up into the sea and other natural environments since the Coronavirus pandemic started. Although the masks have helped save millions of lives, they are now causing an environmental problem of their own. Several non-profit organisations are making a call for people to dispose properly of their protective gear. Here at Toluna we will tell you how, and why this is an issue for the environment.

To start, not all masks are made from biodegradable materials. Many of these items will be around for a long time - even after disposal. The risk of transmission is only high some hours after the mask is disposed, but the environmental risk lasts longer. Many activists have witnessed animals, mostly flying birds, getting tangled in the elastic bands that hold the mask in place on our face. For many species of birds, the mask seem like a convenient construction material for their nests and this is true for the most part - except for the fact that the elastic bands can become deadly traps for these animals.

Oceans Asia participates in the WWF's Blue Oceans Initiative by visiting various points along the Asian coastline to quantify the presence of waste, paying special attention to plastics. During trips to the Soko Islands in recent weeks, large quantities of abandoned masks have been found floating in the water and mixed with other waste on the beaches.

In light of this, we must find a way to reduce the after effects of wearing face coverings:

Use reusable masks without disposable filters: Machine wash them by following the guidelines for the material.

Whenever you need to dispose of a mask, first cut the elastic straps as much as possible, and dispose of them in the correct bin where available. But, whatever you do, don't litter them!

What are you doing to counteract this issue? Do you have any further advice for the community?

Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Influence your world,

Toluna Team


  2 months ago
What goes in the bin gets recycled, right? Just the thought of littering a mask than to throw in a bin is ridiculous.


  2 months ago
Disgusting !!


  2 months ago
We use material masks which can we washed in the machine and re-used over and over again thus eliminating this problem. I think recycle bins should be put everywhere for people to throw in their used masks, but then again, some are just lazy and this is what causes the problem in the first place.


  2 months ago
My mask is washable.


  2 months ago
Yikes we humans are vile.....I use a washable


  3 months ago


  3 months ago
I very seldom use a mask, but when I do it is a re-usable mask. Soft-toy manufacturers should be able to use it as stuffing for new toys


  3 months ago
I believe that the masks, biodegradable or non-biodegradable can be used as replacement materials by furniture companies as well as repurposed use in the hardware industry.

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