The UK are expected to consume 19.2 billion single use non-recyclable face masks in 2021.
This is a scary number and accounts only for the masks sent to landfill. Couple this with the latest report from The Marine Conservation Society’s annual beach clean that found PPE items on 30% of beaches, it’s clear our consumption is actually much higher and a lot less is being disposed of correctly.
I won’t need one for much longer so wo cares?
It has been widely reported that facemasks are littering our waterways. The PPE found on beaches by the Marine Conservation Society was only 3 months after they became mandatory to wear in England yet the impact was almost immediate. Disposable masks have been worn in hospitals and the care sector for decades without littering so we can assume the mass adoption of these has created an issue.
The metal nose strip and elastic ear loops make them difficult to recycle and furthermore, are the elements of the mask that endanger wildlife.
With the pressure on single use plastic to be banned, our use of disposable facemasks has come under fire from campaigners.
Work is underway
Whilst 2020 has been a year of challenges, so too has it been a year of significant technological and medical progress. The need to reduce single use plastic has led to multiple trials to replace the disposable masks even in medical settings.
The BSUH research team at Sussex Eye Hospital are looking in to ways to sterilise PPE so that it can be used again. Further trials are underway testing antibacterial cotton face masks with results pending. Whilst a solution maybe found, acceptance by medical or care professionals is yet to be understood.
Antimicrobial cotton face masks are already available to the general public. These use silver-ion technology which is proven to prevent the growth of bacteria on the surface of the face mask.
Has fashion saved the day?
Disposable face masks were initially the most available option. Brands soon caught on and catapulted what was a practical item to a fashion statement. Instead of feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable wearing a mask, fashion brands created a swell of competition for face mask designs.
With both men and women getting on board with branded cotton face masks, could the move to reduce single use face masks already be underway? Charlotte Green from Trade Waste claims there could be a saving of £190.11 a year if people ditch the disposable masks, with more companies providing branded masks as well, we might just be in time to prevent further pollution.
For our full range of PPE items visit our dedicated protection range on our website