‘Do not litter your face masks!’ — EcoWaste Coalition
CEBU CITY, Philippines — While the wearing of face masks may protect a person from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), irresponsible disposal of the single-use masks may also cause harm to others, humans and animals alike.
This was the warning of the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog group, as it also raises alarm over “reckless disposal” of face masks, among other protective equipment.
The group, which calls for a “green and just” COVID-19 recovery, appealed to the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) to direct all local government units (LGUs) to ban the littering, especially of soiled disposable masks, alongside the rule on the compulsory wearing of face masks.
“The EcoWaste Coalition warned that improper disposal of soiled masks, which contain respiratory droplets of people who wore them, may endanger the health of others who pick them and then touch their own faces,” the group said in a news release.
EcoWaste added that if the littering of disposable face masks and single-use PPEs will not stop, this could worsen plastic trash and other pollutants harming the marine ecosystems.
According to the group, the littered face masks could end up in water bodies and harm marine animals, considering that fishes, turtles, and birds could mistake single-use plastics and cigarette butts for food.
The intake of the litters would block their digestive tracts and affect their growth, reproduction, and survival, the group said.
The group said it was alarmed after its Basura Patrollers captured photos showing disposable masks littered on sidewalks of areas in Metro Manila and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex where locally stranded individuals (LSIs) crammed over the weekend to avail of the government’s ‘Hatid Tulong’ program.
“We find the careless disposal of dirty face masks in the streets very alarming as if we are not living in a state of public health emergency,” EcoWaste Coalition Zero Waste Campaigner Jove Benosa was quoted in the news release.
“The IATF and local government authorities should take immediate action to prevent these potentially infectious materials from harming human health and threatening aquatic life,” he added.
Benosa said LGUs may enact new ordinances or enforce their existing policies to penalize the littering of the used PPEs.
“LGUs should urgently act to educate and mobilize the public on proper disposal of soiled face masks, gloves, tissues, wipes, and other potentially infectious wastes to protect human health, especially the health of waste workers, and to prevent the spillage of such discards into the oceans,” Benosa said. / dcb
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