ODENSE, Denmark — Two years ago, the notion that everyone would be wearing face masks in public would have sounded like something out of a science fiction movie. Fast forward to 2021 and face masks are the norm, not the exception. In fact, researchers find 129 billion face masks are being thrown out each month around the globe. That works out to three million masks in the trash every minute.
The vast majority of those discarded masks are disposable and made from plastic microfibers. With this incredible influx of plastic garbage in mind, researchers at the University of Southern Denmark are ringing the environmental alarm bell about the potential impact all those masks will have on our planet. They say it is imperative that society recognizes the potential environmental threat discarded masks represent; adding that people need to make every effort to ensure masks are thrown away properly.
“With increasing reports on inappropriate disposal of masks, it is urgent to recognize this potential environmental threat and prevent it from becoming the next plastic problem,” researchers write in the scientific journal Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering.