The Negative Impacts of Mask Pollution
Everyone has seen it, probably many times. You are walking around campus, and you see a mask on the ground.
Masks are one of the main weapons in the fight against COVID-19, but they are causing increasing amounts of pollution. The National Library of Medicine estimates that globally “3.4 billion single-use facemasks/face shields are discarded daily as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.”
These masks can cause a multitude of environmental problems. Erin Pavloski, visiting assistant professor of natural and physical sciences at Olivet College, said that the masks are a form of pollution known as “solid waste.” They end up littered in the environment and in waterways which can cause entanglement issues for land and marine life.
The responsibility to keep the masks from becoming litter falls on everyone. Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Professor of Biology Leah Knapp said in a recorded interview that she constantly finds herself picking up masks that have been dropped, and since there is no way to recycle them, she says the best thing to do is to put them in the trash.
There are other ways to fight the mask pollution problem. Knapp said that the ear straps are the primary reason animals are getting tangled.
“I’m not in any way advocating don’t mask. My feeling is, use reusable masks if they work for you. In the long run they are much more resource responsible, and they are cheaper. If you do use disposable ones, pull out those ear tabs and make sure they get into the trash,” said Knapp.