Since we are in a pandemic for a while, and PPE (personal protective equipment) is now widely worn not only in medical facilities but by the general public as well, the amount of single-use items has increased rapidly. Due to The Non-Governmental Organization, Oceans Asia, ''The waste management systems of many countries were already struggling to keep up with excessive consumption and wasteful lifestyles.'' Now, with an increased need for extra security, these systems are failing to cope.
However, as an immense amount of lives have been negatively affected by Covid-19, the necessity to use PPE is so far inescapable. The interim guidance of WHO mention the following measures as crucial steps to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2. These are: hand hygiene, physical distancing of at least 1 metre, avoidance of touching one's face, respiratory etiquette, adequate ventilation in indoor settings and wearing a face mask. Accordingly, we are all in a difficult situation where environmental issues are worrying us from one side and global pandemic from the other.
Nevertheless, there is a solution… go reusable!
Reusable or at least longer-lasting face masks are more sustainable and less harmful to the environment. And if they are correctly used, they work just as well as surgical ones.
Our company offers reusable face masks and gloves, which are few of their kind equipped with an antiviral textile treatment ViralOff®. As products of är are self-cleaning, they sterilise their surface independently. That means there is no additional water needed. Moreover, this treatment also holds environmental certification Oeko-tex® Eco Passports proving its ecologically responsible manufacture. Also, products of är come in reclosable packaging, which can later be used to store self-cleaning PPE by är.
3 main reasons why reusable masks are better than disposal:
- they create less pollution and are less harmful to the environment
- they allow us to prioritise medical-grade masks to medical facilities
- they are more economical
Less environmental threat to the oceans
According to a 2018 report by UN Environment, approximately 13 million tonnes of plastic goes into the ocean each year. Disposable PPE creates more pollution in the oceans and coastlines that do not disappear, and in addition, nearly 700 marine animals are currently threatened by plastic waste. Single-use masks and gloves are commonly made of non-recyclable plastic compounds, which can take up to 450 years or more to decompose. Such thrown out PPE will later break down into smaller pieces that are later mistaken by marine wildlife as food. Such sea products then end up in our plates, with plastic getting back into our food chain.
The situation with plastic pollution in the oceans is critical. Researches by Plastic Waste Innovation Hub, University College London summarise that if the general public uses reusable mask instead of disposable ones, they would significantly reduce plastic waste and the climate change impact associated with PPE, as their research shows the terrifying amount of plastic waste that is very likely to be created. Plastic Waste Innovation Hub calculated that: ''If every person in the UK used one single-use mask each day for a year, that would create 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste and create ten times more climate change impact than using reusable masks.''
Prioritising medical-grade supplies to first-line workers
Besides environmental issues, almost every country experienced a lack of medical-grade masks, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Medical-grade PPE was not previously meant for the general public. However, as they became mandatory in many countries, their use was unavoidable. Their supply has been raised over time, and environmental issues also came with it. Even though we are not urged to prioritise them to first-line workers at the moment, the production capacities are not stable.
Moreover, PPE in medical facilities are considered as contaminated items, which have to be safely eliminated. For the general public, there is no such option to do so. Using a reusable face mask reduces the chance of spreading bacterial and viral contamination to the environment.
However, we do take into consideration that wearing such medical-grade mask is obligatory in many places. Therefore, we created a longer-lasting FFP2 respirator that uses the same antiviral technologies as är Face Mask. är Respirator is the first designer FFP2 respirator mask that uses antiviral technology ViralOff®. This respirator can be used repeatedly up to five times for 40hours in a row. Thanks to special disinfection and self-cleaning technology are är Respirators a more sustainable PPE.
Reusable face masks are cheaper
Although they may seem more expensive initially, reusable face masks are more economical from a long-term perspective. For example, är Face Mask for 29.9 € will last you for a lifetime. Meanwhile, single-use masks must be repeatedly purchased, and it goes over the price of the reusable mask after a short time.
We believe that even in times when global health and environmental issues are the main questions for our future, there is always a way for a compromise. Environmental issues are important matters to deal with, and so do the public health. Use products by är to support longer-lasting and more sustainable options of PPE.
WRITTEN BY: ÄR FACEMASK