Masks have proven essential to slowing the spread of the Coronavirus, but the disposal of the single-use variety is proving a to be a huge public and planetary health risk.
It's estimated that the production and sales of disposable masks will total $166billion this year (compared to $800million in 2019). According to the UN, "If historical data is a reliable indicator, it can be expected that around 75 per cent of the used masks, as well as other pandemic-related waste, will end up in landfills, or floating in the seas."
These disposable masks don't just disappear. Most contain plastics like polypropylene and will remain in the environment for around 450 years. Inevitably, these will be ingested by marine animals and will eventually make their way into our food supply.
- Karri Ann Frerichs