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Disposable vs reusable masks

This article was originally published on the Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots in the UAE website

Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

The covid-19 pandemic has thrown us all into a very strange world. Environmentally speaking, global lockdowns brought great benefits as cars and aeroplanes were left on their driveways and runways, but the pandemic has brought something else with it that is beginning to cause a problem … disposable face masks.

According to an article from The National one supermarket chain in the UAE called ‘Lulu’ said it was sourcing on average 1.6 million face masks per day!

Why is this a problem?

Already, 8 million tonnes of plastics enter our oceans every year. University College London have worked out that if everyone in the UK wore a disposable mask each day then, it would create 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste, but also a huge 128,000 tonnes of unrecyclable plastic waste. That’s about 1200 blue whale’s worth of plastic rubbish!

The UAE has a population of 9.6 million people, so if each mask weighs about 4 grams and everyone in the UAE used one mask per day for a year it would throw away roughly 14,000 tonnes of masks, that’s another 150 blue whales worth of masks heading to the ocean!

We need to do something to reduce this waste.

Get sewing!

While a proportion of this might be unavoidable, such as in hospitals, the rest of us don’t need to use disposable masks. There are many reusable/washable masks you can buy, but you can also make them and reuse materials you already have.

There are loads of helpful diy mask tutorials online to get you started, so if you’ve got an old shirt, some scissors and a sewing machine, why not give it a go! You could also make more than you need to give to people you meet who use disposable masks, or you could sell them to raise money for another eco project you and your Roots & Shoots group are working on.

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