Are Disposable Masks the New Plastic Straw?

The fight against plastic pollution has a new contender... 

By Marcus Taylor

For several years, plastic straws have been the stand-out culprit for ocean pollution. But now, with the advent of face coverings, do we have a bigger fish to fry in the single-use mask?

Plastic Straws

At the beginning of July 2018, Seattle became the largest city in the U.S. to ban plastic straws. In a country that’s estimated to use 500 million plastic straws a day, this was a big moment.

Public companies began to follow suit, with major polluters such as Starbucks and McDonalds pledging to phase out any use of plastic straws.

The reason? Accountability. A study published in 2018 estimated that as many as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world's beaches. With data like this so readily available, it’s easier than ever to identify these problems and search for solutions.

Why has this taken so long? Cost. There’s no doubt that plastic straws are cheaper than their alternatives.

But, what we’re seeing in the fight against plastic is a conscious decision to value morals over money. Plastic straw alternatives are more expensive in the short term, sure, but the payoff is greater in the long term when we’re not scouring for sand spots on a straw covered beach.

Disposable Masks

Did you know – if every person in the UK used one single-use face mask each day for a year, it would create 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste?

Now imagine the amount of disposable face masks being used worldwide, and you get the scale of the problem we’re facing.

Single-use masks are quickly climbing the ranks of the most dangerous enemies in the fight against plastic pollution. So much so that three weeks ago Greenpeace put out an official statement warning against disposable, and encouraging people to wear reusable masks.

What Can We Do?

Let’s treat disposable masks like plastic straws. It took time, but the general public has switched to opting for alternatives over plastic straws, and we can do the exact same for masks.

The only difference is: we need to be faster.

If you’re still wearing disposable masks for personal use or for your business, we urge you to switch to reusables. You’ll find that, whilst the immediate cost of a reusable mask is more expensive, not having to constantly re-order means you’ll actually save money in the long run.

Let’s not take one step forward with plastic straws, and two steps back with single-use masks. Let’s stride into a plastic-free future with a guilt-free conscience and a reusable mask.