UGLearnGreen: Mask disposal and the environment, impact on wildlife
October 6, 2021
Masks are a crucial layer of protection in the controlling of COVID-19, however when disposed of improperly, masks can have a serious impact on the environment and wildlife.
This spring, researchers published a report in the journal Animal Biology that examines the effect the improper disposal of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE), including disposable masks and gloves, has on animals.
Researchers in many parts of the world have documented reports of animals dying after ingesting or becoming tangled in PPE.
It’s important that we always dispose of single-use masks and gloves properly, both to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the environment and wildlife.
Please see further below for information from Health Canada on the proper disposal of masks.
And to help protect animals and the environment, consider these tips:
- Always ensure you are disposing of your single-use masks and gloves in a waste bin, following the guidelines from Health Canada below.
- Before throwing out disposable masks, cut the ear loops or remove them, so that animals won’t get entangled in them.
Cloth masks should be changed and cleaned if they become damp or soiled. You can wash your cloth mask by:
- putting it directly into the washing machine, using a hot cycle, and then drying it thoroughly
- washing it thoroughly by hand if a washing machine isn’t available, using soap and warm or hot water
- allow it to dry completely before wearing it again
Non-medical masks that can’t be washed should be disposed of properly in a lined garbage bin. Replace your mask as soon as it gets damp, soiled or crumpled. Don’t leave discarded masks in shopping carts or on the ground where other people may come into contact with them.
It’s important to remember the following when using non-medical masks:
- masks with an exhalation valve don’t protect others
- never share your mask with someone else
- don’t handle a mask belonging to someone else
- don’t allow other people to handle or touch your mask