Cutting the ear strings off masks and placing them in the bin are two easy steps everyone can take to protect the environment. Why is this important? Sadly, masks that still have ear loops attached can harm our wildlife by becoming entangled around an animals neck, legs or beak.
It has been well established that circular items discarded into the environment, like the plastic around bottle lids, drink ring holders, plastic bag handles or face masks loops, have the ability to become tangled around our precious wildlife, causing them distress and perhaps death.
Face masks and other personal protective items should be placed in lidded bins, so they are disposed of correctly and don't just end up littering our planet. Rubbish can end up in our waterways and add toxic plastic particles to the marine environment. If the ear loops are still attached, they can become entangled around wildlife, marine animals and plants.
The use of protective face masks has grown substantially in recent months in both Victoria and other parts of Australia in order to combat the spread of COVID-19. This was further accelerated by the Victorian government enforcing the mandatory wearing of face masks during the second wave of Coronavirus. Other parts of Australia are also recommending the use of face masks in various situations.
Globally, there are around 129 billion face masks and 65 billion disposable gloves being used each month, according to Environmental, Science and Technology magazine, published in June 2020. With this enormous use personal protective equipment comes growing concern regarding the problem of plastic pollution and the overall environmental impact.
It has become imperative that the entire community understands why and how to dispose of face marks correctly. According to Safe Work Australia, if a mask is uncontaminated, it can be safely disposed of with general waste, preferably in a bin with a fitted lid (there are more stringent guidelines regarding the disposal of contaminated masks). This will help to reduce the amount of stray litter created by the growing use of face masks and PP wear. In addition, it is important to also please remember to cut the ear loops in half and protect our wildlife - because the world matters.