Non-Reusable Masks and the Environment

Cloth Masks Help to Reduce Waste


Photo by Leah Chandler

Anna Buchert (10) wearing her self-made mask.

Some students might ask, “What’s the big deal about using a disposable, blue mask? They’re just paper, right?”

While these cheap options might seem like they can break down easily, it can actually take them up to 450 years to fully decompose. These masks also shed tiny micro-plastics, or teeny-tiny pieces of plastic, that can be ingested by fish and other ocean life. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “disposable face masks could be one of the future leading causes for micro-plastics.” It’s not just the “cloth” part that’s dangerous to the world. The strings have also been known to entangle small animals. If the only option is to use disposable masks, try to prevent them from hurting the environment by simply cutting the straps and properly disposing of it.

Hayes Edwards (9) is happy to help do his part. “Reusable masks are what I’d prefer to wear because they are better for the environment,” Edwards said.

Thankfully, there are other options such as fabric masks. These masks can be made at home or bought practically anywhere. Fabric masks are also relatively cheap options, because after the initial investment of buying the mask, there’s no added costs. Fabric masks come in any pattern, style or color possible. If there’s a certain band or tv show, anyone could almost certainly find a mask with that on it. If that mask doesn’t exist yet, making one is possible too.

Abby Brown (10) wears her reusable mask for many reasons.

“It’s a lot more breathable and comfortable, and I also like having a design on my mask. It makes it a lot more personalized and not seem so mass produced,” Brown said.

Eunice Eleke (11) does not care as much about the stylishness of her mask.  “I wear a reusable mask to be safe; the design is not nearly as important as the cause,” Eleke said.

As long as the masks are properly cleaned, then they are a perfectly safe option. Cleaning them isn’t that big of a hassle either. Washing them in the washing machine along with any other clothes on a hot setting should effectively clean them.

Fabric masks are far better for the environment and overall a good mask choice for the average person.