Just as some Ghanaians would drink sachet and bottle water and dump it anywhere they find themselves, so are some people disposing their nose masks after use.
In some major streets in the capital Accra are disposed nose masks. Not only does the improper disposal of these used nose masks make the city dirty but could also be harmful to the environment.
Masks are essential for stopping the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic and they have become an everyday accessory. However, what are the effects of huge increase in the use of disposable masks? Health experts say the environment is in danger of being another victim if masks are not disposed of carefully.
Wearing masks has become a global requirement to stop the spread of COVID-19, although they do have a downside. Wearing masks is an effective way of preventing the spread of the infection and they have become part of our outfit, but they could be disastrous for the environment, because the TNT they are made of takes between 400 and 450 years to break down.
The situation is of concern to health authorities the world about this new type of environmental pollution.
In recent months, when the pandemic surged, disposable masks that had not been disposed of correctly have been turning up in cities around the world. In March, groups of environmentalists in Hong Kong raised the alarm when large numbers of used masks started appearing on beaches.
Environmentalists have warned that this residue is a threat to human life marine life and wildlife habitats. Even more concerning is that in addition to pollution, this waste may increase the spread of the new coronavirus.
Although alternatives are appearing, most people in the world are using masks made of TNT, which are practical and cheap, but which are not designed to be washed. Production has increased exponentially.
For example, in Brazil alone, the Brazilian Textile and Garment Association has manufactured 13.5 disposable masks after mobilizing hundreds of companies. Recycling plants have been forced to adopt strategies to protect workers responsible for collecting and sorting rubbish from becoming infected by masks that have been disposed of carelessly.
HOW TO DISPOSE OF MASKS CORRECTLY
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends discarding them in the “correct” rubbish bin immediately after use and not reusing them. What is the “correct” bin? Masks and other disposable material that are used to contain the pandemic, such as gloves, must not be disposed of in the recycling bin with packaging, cans, etc. or with organic waste. Do not throw them away with your general household rubbish.
In June last year, the WHO updated its recommendations to include mask wearing in public spaces. Since then, they have become mandatory in many cities of the world, sometimes with fines imposed for breaching the rules. Today, many people think that their use will continue for health and hygiene reasons, even after COVID-19 is under control.
Experts say that a good mask should cover your nose and mouth and allow the wearer to move naturally without opening the sides. The purpose is to stop saliva droplets from spreading in the air and contaminating other people’s faces, lips, noses and eyes. In the throes of this pandemic, masks have become a sign of protection and solidarity, because sick people avoid infecting others and allow healthy people to protect themselves from infection. This is not just a case of emergency use for personal protection, but a collective strategy that enables people to protect each other from now on.