6M Facemasks Disposed Daily
By Thameenah Razeek
At least six million facemasks are disposed daily, and the next environmental crisis could start with those facemasks and surgical gloves, said Minister of Environment, Mahinda Amaraweera.
He also said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most institutions are using rubber hand gloves as protective gear, and information received by the Ministry of Environment showed that at least five million standard and one million KN95 facemasks are disposed daily.
“Although the health sector has advised people to wear masks, the public has not yet received proper advice on how to dispose of them properly,” Amaraweera said at a discussion held with officials of the Central Environmental Authority (CEA).
He said it is clear that contaminants, including masks, are disposed of properly by infected and quarantined individuals, but added that the biggest problem is of those who wear masks to protect themselves from COVID-19 in general. He stressed that some people remove their masks without following any safety precautions and throw it away without remembering where they are.
“The COVID-19 virus can spread again through the disposal of masks, and due to the heavy rains, the virus can enter rivers and mix with the water. Last week, nearly 100 water samples were tested in a river in Ecuador. All of those water samples were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19,” he said.
Therefore, Amaraweera said Local Authorities should be instructed to strictly implement the guidelines for the prevention of COVID-19 that were prepared by the CEA. “If six million facemasks are added to the environment daily, it equals to approximately 180 million a month. Therefore, I instructed the CEA to implement their guidelines as soon as possible,” Amaraweera said.