Environment Impact of Mask

Picture Source: EcoChain

Karun’s Blog (wesustainabletextileforum.com)

As the people around the world are settling into the new normal and countries unlocked their cities and economies, our wardrobes have a new staple; the face mask. Many countries are making face masks mandatory in order to open up society in the existing COVID-19 crisis

The question of increased waste has been highlighted by media pictures of disposable face masks washing up on beaches and laying discarded in the streets

The Guardian News

As production of masks is increasing worldwide with the entry of fashion brands into this segment, the cost is going down with mass production. This means the production of the masks is entering in fast fashion trajectory creating the fear of tonnes of mask waste entering into already overloaded Landfills and Oceans. Like we see with fast fashion model the mask supply chain will negatively impact our environment and the people who make our masks. With a longer lifespan, these masks are an ecological disaster given their lasting environmental consequences for our planet

There is already evidence of plastic pollution caused by masks. The OceansAsia team has reported finding masses of surgical masks washing up on the shoreline threatening the health of oceans and marine life,

There are two kinds of masks that are in demand worldwide  

  1. N95 (for medical workers)
  2. Cotton fabric masks (for non-medical / to reduce the risk of infecting others)

The rising demand for masks means higher footprints. Time to ask the question: What’s the environmental footprint of all of that? 

Let’s start with the N95 mask

3M N95 face mask

This is how the face mask structure looks like

Source: Ecochain

The total footprint of one mask… is 0,05 kg of CO2-equivalent, so around 50 grams. 

For cotton mask

Source: Modamatters

This is how the face mask structure looks like

Source: Ecochain

The result: 0,06 kg CO2-equivalent per face mask! The CO2 footprint of the cotton face mask is actually 20% higher than the footprint of the N95 protective face mask.

Cotton fabric, even if only a little, has a relatively high CO2 footprint throughout its production cycle. 

Source: Ecochain

But when we do life cycle assessment (use phase) the picture looks very different.N95 face masks are recommended to only be used once. The cotton mask, on the other hand, can be laundered and worn many times

Like when buying any textile product, it’s important to do your due diligence during mask purchase. Small changes can have significant effects for the environment
Below are some suggestions for adding a more sustainable mask (regular cotton mask) to your wardrobe:

Materials – Certified Organic Cotton or Certified fair trade / Cutting waste of other products / Recycled cloth-based face masks
Construction – Durable and Easy to take care
Design – Versatile (that goes with any clothing )
Intelligent finishes – Non-PFC water repellent, Eco-friendly AntiViral and Antibacterial
Brand – With transparency and traceability in supply chain

Article Source: EcoChain & Green Story


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