Proper Mask Disposal

­Masks are essential for stopping the spread of COVID-19 during this pandemic and some are donning them as an everyday accessory. However, the use of disposable masks may have negative consequences for our environment. It is in danger of becoming another victim of the pandemic when masks are not properly disposed of.

Requirement for prevention

Wearing an ear loop mask became a global requirement to stop the spread of COVID-19, although there is some drawback with their functionality. Wearing a mask is an effective way of combatting the spread of infection and becoming more and more part of our outfits. However, they can be disastrous for the environment. Due to their compositional makeup (TNT) it can take anywhere between 400 to 450 years for them to breakdown. Hence the concern from health officials the world over about their residual effects of environmental pollution.

Masks and their environmental impact

Environmentalists in Hong Kong have been sounding the alarm since March of 2020 regarding used masks left on benches. Furthermore, since the surge of the pandemic masks that have not been properly disposed of have been appearing across cities around the world. That is why environmentalist have warned that used disposal masks left in public places is a threat to human, marine and wildlife habitats. What is of even more concern is this waste has the potential of increasing the spread of SAR-Cov2 (COVID-19).

Although, alternatives are appearing, most people around the world are using practical and cheap masks made from TNT that are not designed to be washed. Production of these masks have increased exponentially. For example, if we look at Brazil their Textile and Garment Association have manufactured 13.5 million disposable masks. The downside to this ramp up in necessary PPE is the handling of garbage disposal. Recycling plants have been forced to institute protocols for the safety of their workers due to the careless disposal of masks. So, what can we do to safely dispose of our face masks?

How to Dispose Masks Correctly

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends discarding them in the “correct” garbage receptacle immediately and not to reuse them. Masks and other disposable items used during this pandemic, i.e., gloves must not be disposed of in the recycling bin or with organic waste in some countries. Rather the materials/items should be placed inside two small plastic bags – one inside the other. Tie the bags tightly and place inside the general domestic waste. If you have encountered an infected person or you may be infected yourself while wearing your mask or gloves, then RISK OF CONTAMINATION should be written on the outside of the outermost bag.


Although studies about how long the virus may last on textiles are inconclusive, disposable masks and gloves need to be disposed of properly. What is known however, is that improper disposal is having a negative effect on our environment. Therefore, let each one of us ensure we are doing our part in discarding our disposable PPE properly – placed inside a plastic bag, sealing it firmly, and placing inside of our household waste.