Every day 53 million face masks are thrown away in the UK.
Research conducted by waste company; TradeWaste.co.uk found that 8.8 million face masks are being used daily in the UK and 90% of them are being discarded.
This leads to around 3.3 million face masks being sent to landfills each day. The UK can’t handle its landfill capacity as it is: In 2017, it was calculated that England has only 6.8 years left of non-hazardous landfill space. (Tolvik Consulting, 2017).
The essential and enforced action of wearing a mask ensures that we protect ourselves and others. However, the consequences of using convenient one-use masks and then disposing of them- directly harms the planet and inadvertently contradicts our decision to protect our communities.
In YourArea.co.uk asked almost 4,000 people across the UK to respond to questions as part of their Don’t Trash Our Future campaign. Shockingly they found that 83% had said littering had gotten worse during the pandemic. 90% said that they have seen face-masks dropped in the street but 87% said they wouldn’t feel comfortable picking one up to put in a bin.
Lockdown also brought more people out to the countryside, this, in turn, has unfortunately contributed to Kent’s most beautiful spots being covered in litter. More than a third of adults in England (38 percent) have seen more litter near to where they live since the start of the pandemic according to a YouGov poll commissioned by CPRE, the countryside charity.
Four in five people (78 percent) would like to see the government take more action to tackle the scourge of litter. CPRE is therefore calling on the government not to delay and stick to its original timetable for a fully inclusive Deposit Return Scheme to reduce waste and litter and boost recycling.
A Deposit Return Scheme would mean there would be a surcharge on a product when purchased and a rebate when it is returned. Container deposit legislation mandates that a refund is given when reusable packaging is returned. An example of an Eco-friendly business encouraging customers to return reusable packaging is cosmetics store LUSH who offers a free product for anyone who brings their plastic containers back to the store after use.
Helping to tackle PPE litter is something we can all do. There are many small eco-friendly brands in the UK making sustainable masks that could reduce the countries use of unsuitable products, these include:
The Simple Folk Sustainable Mask – £7: Made with 100% organic cotton and OEKO-TEX® certified dyes
MAASK Sustainable Face Mask – £25: Made ethically in Europe, these sustainable face masks are created from recycled ocean plastic fabric.
Or our personal favourite: an idea that originated from a female graphic designer in the Netherlands, her Biodegradable masks have seeds inside, that turn into flowers when the mask is discarded. You can find these on https://mariebeebloom.com/shop/
Heres what some Canterbury residents have to say :
Feature image credit: Via Marine Conservation Society/PA