But would YOU pick up a discarded face mask?
Face masks are highly effective in reducing the chances of catching and spreading Covid-19, however, inconsiderate litterbugs are leaving their soiled goods all over the place.
This problem has become so overwhelming that local councils will spend around £20,000-100,000 of council tax payers’ money per area to clear up littered face masks.
Waste collection specialists BusinessWaste.co.uk have seen this problem first-hand, and are urging people to make sure that face masks are binned correctly and not just dumped in the street.
“Wearing a face mask has allowed us to keep safe this year, and it’s fantastic how many people have adapted to regularly wearing one,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “But would you pick up somebody else’s used mask?”
“If people were as passionate about binning them properly as they are about wearing them in the shops, it would be much better for our environment and save our local councils time and money.”
The big problem
BusinessWaste.co.uk have previously reported that 50 million face masks are going to landfill each day across the UK, with face mask litter killing wildlife and ending up in our oceans.
But in our most populated areas, this problem has reached a boiling point.
More people mean more masks being used and littered, which is why local councils up and down the country are pledging combined millions to try and put a stop to this problem.
Hall: “We are incredibly grateful to the council’s for designating the money to help clean up this mess, but if people were able to stop littering their disposable masks it wouldn’t have had to come to such expensive measures.
“It’s a waste of money that could have gone towards more positive projects in the local area’s, but instead it’s being used to clean up borderline hazardous waste.”
So just how many masks are we talking about?
According to the latest report by the Office For National Statistics, 97% of people use a face covering when outside of their home.
And based on a recent survey, 51% of those wearing face coverings were using single-use masks.
Using these recent statistics, as well as looking at the current population size, Mark Hall at BusinessWaste.co.uk has estimated that 49%, of the total population, are using single-use masks.
Hall: “If we assume these people are using a new mask each day, one a day for five days a week, that is a lot of masks and a lot of waste.
“Unless people make the switch to reusable masks, then we have to find simple and effective ways for people to dispose of these masks that won’t damage the environment.”
Time to properly dispose of masks
When BusinessWaste.co.uk asked 1,000 people if they would pick up a discarded facemask, 99% said no.
The most common response for leaving littered face mask, was not wanting to touch something they feared would be contaminated with Covid-19.
Hall: “It’s perfectly understandable that people wouldn’t want to pick up discarded masks on the street, especially when we’ve had the importance of hygiene drilled into us all year.
“It just highlights that we need to tackle the problem at the source, stopping masks from being littered rather than requiring people to go around picking them up.”
The simplest answer would be to install pop-up PPE bins, which BusinessWaste.co.uk suggested earlier in the year.
These bins would make it easier for people to dispose of masks while out and about, whilst also following government guidelines about separating personal waste from general waste.
Hall: “PPE bins are the best chance we’ve got to protect both people and the planet from the effects of this pandemic, while keeping our streets free from face mask litter.
“Without them, towns and cities around the UK will see local councils spending a small fortune clearing up after this mess.”
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