As mask restrictions ease across the country, people find themselves needing to get rid of them.
According to Waste Free Oceans, plastic masks take 450 years to decompose in nature. Nancy Mathews, Dean and Professor at Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources said disposing of a face mask properly is good for everyone.
“One it’s a health concern being used, it needs to be disposed in a proper waste can,” Mathews said. “Secondly like any trash you wouldn’t want to just leave it out on the sidewalk or leave it in the environment.”
If masks are not properly thrown out , they may make it worse for the marine litter crisis. Used facial barriers also have the potential to expose people to possible bacteria and germs.
“But also like any trash it would begin to accumulate,” Mathews said. “One of the things I value most about being in Vermont is Clean Up Day, so they probably would be picked up onClean Up Day if not before.”
Waste Free Oceans also reports that a mask thrown away on the street will likely make its way to the ocean through sewers and rivers. Mathews has found used masks along the bike bath.
“Or along the sidewalks and to me it’s probably something that fell off of a bike or out of a pocket so I am not assuming people are just dropping them on purpose,” Mathews said. “But it’s good for everybody just to be aware of where they have them and where they will dispose of them.”
According to the World Health Organization the proper way to get rid of a mask when you’re done using it is to throw them away in garbage cans with lids and a garbage bag that will be tied together when it’s removed to keep them from falling out or blowing away.