Why You Should Wear a Reusable Mask


With masks becoming a requirement in public places, a better solution to single use masks are reusable ones. Via Pixabay.

While wearing masks in public places is essential to staying healthy during COVID-19, the amount of new waste caused by the use of disposable masks poses a huge environmental threat. Slowing the spread of the virus is at the front of everyone’s mind, but what must be equally considered is how we can do this in an environmentally sustainable way that will not cause long-term ecological problems.

Plastic waste and trash in the ocean and on beaches. Photo via Pixabay

The concerns with single-use plastic have been known for a while. National Geographic explains how only 9 percent of plastic used gets recycled, leaving the other 79 percent to be thrown into landfills, littered on the ground or end up in the ocean. The COVID-19 outbreak and the new need for single-use masks, which are plastic-based, only heightens this problem. These masks are also only designed to be worn for a day or less and with millions (or even billions) of people cycling through multiple masks per day, the expected amount of waste is enormous. On top of this, the United Nations anticipates that 75 percent of single-use masks will end up in landfills or the ocean and that the excessive amount of waste created by them could result in “open burning or uncontrolled incineration of masks, leading to the release of toxins in the environment.”

Clearly, this is not sustainable. Reusable masks, however, could limit COVID-19’s environmental impact while also mitigating the spread of the virus. In fact, the best reusable masks with a double layer of cloth have shown to be more effective than disposable surgical masks.

Audrey Kaufman ‘21 and Ruby Link ‘21 wear Audrey’s home-made reusable masks while out in public to protect themselves and the environment. Photo by Amelia Chapman

Audrey Kaufman, a senior at Boulder High, has spent much of her time during this pandemic sewing masks for her friends, family and co-workers. She began making masks when she saw them become an essential part of everyday life.

“My family members really needed masks and I had plenty of time during quarantine, so I watched a YouTube video and learned how to make them,” she says. Noting how reusable masks can help convey style and personality in a time when social interaction is limited, Kaufman sees the environmental benefits of reusable masks as well. “Homemade masks are so much cuter, but they are also so much better for the environment. Single-use masks get thrown away, which is such a waste when it only takes a minute to wash a reusable mask.” 

So, do your part for the environment: wear a reusable mask.