As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, ecosystems around the world are feeling the effects of increased mask pollution in the ocean. While the pandemic has gone through various ups and downs in terms of severity, case numbers have spiked recently, which means masks aren’t going away any time soon. But, if hundreds of millions of people are expected to continue mask use on a daily basis through 2022 and on, then a solution must be made to protect our oceans and marine life before we reach irreversible consequences.
A Look at Face Mask Pollution in 2021
When analyzing the severity of face mask pollution in 2021, and the previous year, you’ll find some unsettling numbers. A study by Concordia University recently found that a single disposable mask left exposed under natural conditions can release more than 1.5 million microplastics into the environment. When you pair those numbers alongside the 129 billion masks consumed globally every month, it’s hard to even put that amount of plastic to words. This mass disposal has a worrying impact on human, animal, and ecological health, and trends indicate it could get worse.
How Many Masks Are in the Ocean?
It’s difficult to say how many masks have been deposited into our oceans, but we do have a general idea of the level of plastic pollution in our waters. Nearly 13 million tonnes of plastic goes into our oceans each year, according to a 2018 estimate by UN Environment. This was two years before the pandemic, and now with countless amounts of PPE entering the oceans that number has likely multiplied considerably.With masks having an average lifespan of 450 years, it is absolutely our duty to limit the amount of mask pollution in the ocean. In doing so, we must address the issue on both a local and global level to not only encourage cleanup efforts, but to find more eco-friendly solutions in the manufacturing of these products.
The Impact of Face Mask Pollution in the Ocean
Aside from contributing to plastic pollution, which is already a global crisis, face mask pollution presents other dangers to our oceans and wildlife. Disposable face masks can lead to the direct or indirect ingestion of these plastics among our aquatic wildlife. This can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal obstructions, entanglement, and death by starvation.
Micro and nanoplastics from face masks also pollute our water course, and recent studies have indicated that face masks could potentially be releasing dangerous pollutants, such as heavy metals and toxic dyes, into our waters. Since reducing mask use is counter-productive for ending the global pandemic, a sustainable approach is perhaps required to help reduce the growing pollution levels.
The Need For Biodegradable Face Masks
ELoMed has designed a biodegradable face mask made in USA with 100% sustainable packaging. The masks are the first of their kind: made from renewable plant resources like corn, cassava, sugar cane, and sugar beet. ELoMed™ stands for a quality standard: simple, smart, and sustainable, and we believe these three pillars are an interrelated system that supports a long-term vision for making protection possible for individuals and the environment.
Our eco-friendly and sustainable bio face masks feature a unique bio-based nonwoven fabric that breaks down over time, providing soil conditioners as it decomposes in the right conditions. They also feature soft eco-elastic ear loops and a non-toxic meltblown filter layer that offers >98% BFE protection. The bio face mask is hypoallergenic as well - meaning ELoMed is safe for individuals with sensitive skin, allergies, and respiratory concerns.
For thoughtful disposal, we recommend removing the face mask ear loops and recycling the nose strip. For in depth instruction, please refer to our packaging (and recycle that when you are done too!)
We created this product so you don't have to make compromises between your health and your ethics. If you’re interested in joining the efforts for a more sustainable future, learn more about what makes us us. For any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact us today.