Face masks and other personal protective equipment are an essential part of our daily routine since the coronavirus outbreak. As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, so does our daily use of this personal protective equipment (PPE). And the longer we utilise these PPEs, so does the increase in plastic waste.
Irresponsible waste disposal is already detrimental to the environment and what more for the careless disposal of PPEs. Personal protective equipment is made out of plastic materials. And we are all aware that plastic has a lifespan of up to 450 years. Additionally, there are types of plastic materials called microplastics that never fully disintegrates.
So, what happens to our environment if we allow irresponsible disposal of our personal protective equipment such as facial masks?
- Curbside rubbish. The lockdown period has already contributed to the existing curbside rubbish and this emerging waste of PPEs exacerbate the situation. Facial masks, latex gloves and other PPEs add extra pressure on the waste industry’s waste management.
- Littering in public places. PPEs are not only seen through curbside rubbish, but they are also present in some public places. Use facial masks, disinfectant wipes and rubber gloves are littering the parking lots. These soiled items are potentially carrying an infectious disease.
- Cluttered in our landfills. Most of our curbside rubbish will end up in our landfills including our PPEs. These items are made up of plastic materials and if they all end up in our landfills, it will seriously harm our environment including the soil and air.
- Plastic pollution. Since PPEs are made up of plastic, it contributed to the current surge of plastic waste in the country. Plastic comes in different forms but one thing that they have in common is that it will take hundreds of years before these items will disintegrate. Some might not even shrink and will continue to pollute the land, air and our waterways.
- PPEs litter the oceans. Discarded personal protective equipment such as facial mask and latex gloves has been floating around the oceans. Irresponsible disposal of PPEs is seen around the globe. The new emergence of the world’s waste problem is now threatening marine life.
In A Nutshell
Irresponsible disposal of facial masks, latex gloves and other PPEs will not only cause harm to our environment. These discarded materials could be potential in carrying infectious diseases that can compromise the health of the people.
The main reason as to why we wear these PPEs is to stop the spread of the infectious disease while keeping ourselves protected. However, if we’re not responsible enough for taking the time in disposing of these items responsibly, all these safety measures are useless.
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