Zimbabwe: Used Face Mask an Environmental Hazard

28 July 2021

Coronavirus waste has become a new form of pollution as single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) floods our rivers and dams.

By Mitchell Musadziruma

The Discarded single-use face masks used to stop the spread of coronavirus could be causing significant harm to the environment.

COVID-19 has had a number of unexpected impacts on the environment, curtailing recycling and increasing the use of plastic around the world.

As a result, it is mandatory to wear face masks in public to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease in Zimbabwe.

The wearing of face masks has become an important aspect of our daily lives as we all do our best to survive in these unprecedented times.

The majority of the members of the public opt for single-use masks which are also known as disposable face masks as they are often praised for being 'convenient, unlike the cloth masks which have to be thoroughly washed and ironed on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, there have been huge quantities of disposable plastic masks almost everywhere which have devastating effects on the environment, heaping more woes to the country's existing and stubborn litter problem.

Moreover, there are other potential perilous consequences - the pollution could pose, for example, health risks to the public from contaminated used masks, the burning of masks leading to the release of hazardous toxins in the environment as well as transmission of diseases to humans.

Furthermore, the upsurge in the use of single-use masks has led to increases in dumping sites, disposal of waste in rivers, waterways and streams - resulting in water pollution and making it more costly and difficult to purify water.

The problems are numerous hence local authorities who have a lot on their plates, are facing challenges with collecting the waste which increases on a daily basis.

The unfiltered truth is that in as much as it may seem that it is the responsibility of local authorities, civil society organizations and government to implement solutions, we all need to work together collectively as it is our mess as a country.

It is absolutely indispensable for people to learn why it is important and how to correctly dispose of masks so that safe and appropriate disposal is promoted.

In addition, alternative and environmentally friendly options such as reusable face masks should be considered and are encouraged to reduce the number of disposable plastic products that are being improperly disposed of on a daily basis.

Zimbabwe is our home and is supposed to be safe ground for generations hence we should think twice before throwing a used face mask just about anywhere

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