Research on face mask litter

We use an estimate of 129 billion face masks globally every month right now. That is 3 million face mask a minute. The majority of these are disposable masks made from plastic microfibers and many end up as micro- and nano-plastic or carriers for toxicants in the environment.

The study Prevenir perquè les màscares no es converteixin en el següent problema relacionat amb el plàstic by Environmental Toxicologist Elvis Genbo Xu from University of Southern Denmark and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Zhiyong Jason Ren from Princeton University addresses the growing problem of inappropriate disposal of masks and calls for best practices and research.

The authors write: “The coronavirus may never go away but just become another endemic virus in our communities”, the WHO warns (source: “Coronavirus may never go away, World Health Organization warns” on BBC News, 14 May 2020). It is imperative to launch coordinated efforts from environmental scientists, medical agencies, and solid waste managing organizations, and the general public to minimize the negative impacts of disposal mask, and eventually prevent it from becoming another too-big-to-handle problem.

Suggestions made by the authors:
  • Set up mask-only trash cans for collection and disposal
  • consider standardization, guidelines, and strict implementation of waste management for mask wastes
  • replace disposable masks with reusable face masks like cotton masks
  • consider development of biodegradable disposal mask

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