“the New normal”

Is “New normal” a Threat?

As the pandemic has already taken over our lives, Masks have become our new normal. There is a wide variety of masks available in the market. Everyone of us has already become so habitual of the masks that we try them out as new outfits and shoes. Of-course we have to change masks once it becomes wet, as per the WHO guidelines too but is the disposal done right way?. There has been enough talks about importance of wearing masks, how to wear masks or to remove them but what concerns me is DO WE KNOW HOW TO DISPOSE THESE MASKS WITHOUT HARMING THE ENVIRONMENT.

When first there were guidelines for wearing the masks as a compulsion, we saw a change in our surroundings. Everyone follows wearing the masks but we still rely n the disposable masks. The first concern that comes to mind is what happens to these masks after we throw them. I may not be an Health expert but the worry for the environment makes you talks about things no one does.

The threat from these masks is not only to the environment but may also posses a serious threat to the people who come in the contact with them like the Garbage collectors, rag pickers etc.

There are three types of masks available in the market currently – Disposable Masks, Cotton cloth Masks and N95 Masks.

Disposable Masks

Polypropylene Mask

The Disposable Masks or the surgical masks are one time use masks. These are made of polypropylene materials and can keep bigger particles in the droplets to enter of exit from from them. whereas if we consider the smaller particles, the can be transmitted easily with a nearby cough or sneezing. While these are the cheapest and easily available in the market are opted by most of us.

Pros

  • Available at Cheapest price.
  • Easily available in any medical store.
  • Cotton / Cloth masks can be a replacements.

Cons

  • Can only be reused if not wet.
  • Not fancy.
  • The polypropylene is a threat to environment.
  • These are non biodegradable. ( Can take up-to 450 days to fully decompose)

Cloth Masks

Cotton cloth Mask

Any type of cotton cloth can be used as mask but not recommended for patients or if taking care of one.

Pros

  • Reusable. Hence, less waste.
  • Available in various price ranges
  • Available in various fancy designs.
  • Can easily be made at home

Cons

  • Can only be incinerated.
  • Might not be comfortable for breathing.

N95 Masks

The N95 masks are required by the front line people for their protection. these masks give almost 95% protection against smallest particles in the air (up-to 3 microns in size). N95 masks are also made from polypropylene materials.

What can we do?

So, now that we know about our masks what can we do about discarding them. Sadly, these masks are not only thrown away in littering but also flushed in the toilets. Even if we throw them in the garbage, they might end up in rivers, seas and oceans The major problems that we face and can be dealt are listed below:

  • Some people might be exposed to the virus through the used masks.
  • People might reuse them.
  • Might not get disposed properly and harm environment.

The New Normal (Masks) might be protecting us from the major threat in our life but we share this planet with various others. We can’t be selfish. Hence, a better available option for the material is needed in the market.

In order to avoid these situations, we can do some basics.

  • Dispose the mask in a proper bag or sterilise them before throwing.
  • Make sure the masks are disposed such that they can not be reused by anyone.
  • Use cloth Masks unless you are in medical situation, as they can be washed and used multiple times. Hence, less waste.

Ishti Sharma

An architect and Urban Housing Planner, trying to uncover thoughts of unspoken through writing!

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