Cover Photo By Audrey Jaylo
Cover Photo By Audrey Jaylo.

Unmasking a new type of pollution

With over a year of wearing face masks, do we know how to properly dispose of them?

By Jade Clarito | Friday, 30 April 2021


We have been using around 129 billion disposable masks every month for over a year. While it’s scary to think when this pandemic will end, it is also just as frightening to know how it worsens the environment.

Last March 12, 2021, authorities conducting a clean-up drive in Anilao Beach, Batangas found and collected 30 sacks of trash from the famous diving spot in Caban Cove, including a massive pile of used face masks. In July 2020, it has been reported that medical wastes such as disposable masks, latex gloves, and other protective gear have also been starting to cause an aggravation of marine pollution in countries like Japan, Turkey, and in European countries.

Debunking the issues

It was last September 2020 when the International Coastal Cleanup event added the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to be a data category, for after 35 years of the event’s history. Data shows that there were 62,210 PPE items, including disposable masks and gloves, collected from the said event.


Single-use disposable face masks are the most accessible PPE for everyone, causing its improper disposal. Latex and vinyl gloves that we commonly use today for safety are not too different from plastic bags. Hence, disposing it would just worsen the problem of pollution due to single-plastic usage. But unlike plastic bags, these PPE items could not simply be reused and recycled.

Backing up Mother Nature

Indeed, the continued use of the disposable masks, gloves, and other PPE items in the middle of a pandemic is inevitable. This is very crucial for those in the medical field as well, knowing that they are in the frontline of this war with the virus.
To do our part in lessening the wastage, here are some possible solutions:

  • Reusable face masks. The use of reusable masks or cloth masks may serve as a substitute for the usual disposable single-use masks.
  • Biodegradable PPE. Materials such as abaca and banana fibers have been recently used to make face masks in the Philippines. Purchasing these PPEs will not only help save the environment, but it’s also a way to support our local shops.
  • Proper disposal. Strict segregation and proper disposal in our own home or street may help us in handling these PPE from reaching the coastal areas.
  • Practice sustainability. Not only should we lessen our single-use PPE, we must also bid our unethical practices goodbye as well. Here’s to a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle!

Little by little, we can eventually save Mother Earth. Just like the pandemic, we cannot solve this problem overnight. 

And so, it’s up to us to start now, in any way we can.

This article was originally published on April 22, 2021 at The Benildean's Facebook page. Click here to view the Facebook post.

Last updated: Monday, 3 May 2021